Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Primer for Emergency Physicians

Link to article at PubMed

J Emerg Med. 2020 Sep 8:S0736-4679(20)30682-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2020.07.001. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD) impose a significant burden on patients and the emergency health care system. Patients with COPD who present to the emergency department (ED) often have comorbidities that can complicate their management.

OBJECTIVE: To discuss strategies for the management of acute exacerbations in the ED, from initial assessment through disposition, to enable effective patient care and minimize the risk of treatment failure and prevent hospital readmissions.

DISCUSSION: Establishing a correct diagnosis early on is critical; therefore, initial evaluations should be aimed at differentiating COPD exacerbations from other life-threatening conditions. Disposition decisions are based on the intensity of symptoms, presence of comorbidities, severity of the disease, and response to therapy. Patients who are appropriate for discharge from the ED should be prescribed evidence-based treatments and smoking cessation to prevent disease progression. A patient-centric discharge care plan should include medication reconciliation; bedside "teach-back," wherein patients demonstrate proper inhaler usage; and prompt follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: An effective assessment, accurate diagnosis, and appropriate discharge plan for patients with AECOPD could improve treatment outcomes, reduce hospitalization, and decrease unplanned repeat visits to the ED.

PMID:32917442 | DOI:10.1016/j.jemermed.2020.07.001

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