COPD symptoms test cuts hospital admission rates

By Stephen Robinson, 27 January 2012

A test of COPD symptom severity can identify patients at risk of serious exacerbations and help avoid hospital admissions, research shows.

In a study of 161 patients, the COPD test accurately identified patients who went on to have frequent exacerbations and predicted recovery time.

Researchers said the test is the first, reliable, standardised severity assessment available free-of-charge to primary care.

COPD exacerbations are among the most common causes of hospital admissions. They contribute to lung function decline, increase cardiovascular risk, and are responsible for much of the COPD-related morbidity and mortality, researchers noted.

In the study, patients with COPD completed an eight-point questionnaire, the COPD Assessment Test. The test assesses cough, phlegm, chest tightness, breathlessness, sleep and energy levels.

The survey was completed again by 75 of these patients during COPD exacerbations and when recovering.

Patients with frequent exacerbations, defined as at least two a year, had higher baseline test scores than those who experienced infrequent exacerbations. Test scores also rose above baseline levels during exacerbations.

Test score rises were linked to falls in FEV1, and average recovery time was directly linked to the time taken for test scores to return to normal.

Lead researcher Alex Mackay of University College London said: ‘The COPD Assessment Test is validated, free, and easy to administer, and can be easily incorporated into the usual care of patients with COPD at no additional cost.’

The score may also be useful as an objective in clinical trials of interventions intended to reduce exacerbation severity, he added.

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