We read with great interest the original work by Motegi et al1 comparing three multidimensional
assessment systems – BODE (body mass index, obstruction, dyspnea, and exercise capacity)
index, DOSE (dyspnea, obstruction, smoking, exacerbations) index and ADO (age, dyspnea,
obstruction) index – for predicting COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) exacerbations.
In this study, exacerbation rates for the first and second year were 0.57 and 0.48
per patient-year respectively, while previous exacerbations, DOSE index, FEV1% (%
forced expiratory volume in 1 second) predicted and long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT)
use were shown to be predictors of COPD exacerbations. However, this study seems to
have quite different results from our own study that focused on exacerbation frequency
In our study, we examined COPD exacerbations in the general population with the aim
of determining potential risk factors. We studied the frequency and severity of COPD
exacerbations in patients who visited the Respiratory Medicine Clinic at University
of Thessaly Medical School on an outpatient basis between March 2012 and April 2013.
Our study included only patients with COPD confirmed by a spirometry test and aged
over 40 years. Patients with other respiratory diseases were excluded from the study.
All patients took a spirometry test, had their medical history recorded, and a physical
examination was performed. In the study 106 patients participated (91.5% male), with
an average age of 71.48±8.72 years (mean ± standard deviation), with 40.6% classified
as smokers, 56.6% ex-smokers and 2.8% non-smokers. According to GOLD (Global initiative
for chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) classification 12.3% of patients were stage
I, 39.6% stage II, 34.9% stage III and 13.2% stage IV. 25.5% were assessed in patient
group A, 13.2% in group B, 25.5% in group C and 35.8% in group D.
In total, 175 exacerbations were recorded (1.65 exacerbations per patient-year). Exacerbation
rates were 1.64 for stage I patients, 1.36 for stage II, 1.62 for stage III and 2.69
for stage IV. During the past year 36.8% of the patients reported frequent exacerbations
(≥2 per year). Overall, 35.7% of patients with stage I disease, 28.6% of patients
with stage II, 35.1% with stage III, and 69.2% with stage IV had frequent exacerbations.
According to exacerbation severity, 16.6% were mild, 38.9% were moderate, and 44.6%
had severe exacerbations. For the treatment of moderate and severe exacerbations 15.4%
visited a doctor, 23.4% visited a primary health center or an emergency department,
and 44.6% were hospitalized. The treatment of COPD exacerbations was solely with antibiotics
in 42.9% of patients, solely with systemic corticosteroids in 6.5% of patients, and
50.6% of patients were treated with both antibiotics and corticosteroids. The main
risk factor for frequent exacerbations was chronic cough (OR [odds ratio]: 2.62; 95%
CI [confidence interval]:1.15–5.97; P=0.02), while age, years with COPD, and frequent
exacerbations appeared to be associated with severe exacerbations.
Our exacerbation rate agrees with Miravitlles et al,2 who mentioned 1.5 COPD exacerbations
per patient-year. This study used a symptom-based definition of exacerbation without
using daily diaries, such as our study did. Other symptom-based studies, including
diaries, have shown higher rates (2.4–2.7).3–5 Our study has shown that a significant
percentage of COPD patients experience frequent exacerbations (≥2/year) and corresponds
with the ECLIPSE study,6 which also cited similar results. Moreover, most of our patients
experienced moderate and severe exacerbations leading to the need for health care,
and many of them were finally hospitalized. The epidemiology survey EPIPTOSI7 in Greece
also reported significant use of health services for COPD exacerbations, while in
other health care systems huge differences were noticed.8 Finally, exacerbation frequency
appears to be associated with clinical factors, such as chronic cough, which was also
mentioned in the ECLIPSE study,6 but it was not associated with other symptoms or