Study objectives: Our aim was to assess long-term prognosis for patients with an exacerbation of COPD who were treated by the anesthesiologists of the Mobile Emergency Care Unit (MECU) of Copenhagen. We specifically sought to examine whether mortality was different among patients released before hospital admission and those admitted to the hospital.
Design: An observational cohort study with 5-year follow-up.
Setting: Prehospital and university hospital.
Patients: Patients with exacerbation of COPD treated by the MECU.
Measurements: We included all patients treated from 2000 to 2001. In September 2005, we conducted a search to find out whether these patients were still alive, and we analyzed survival using Kaplan-Meier statistics and log-rank test. Patients admitted to the hospital (primarily or secondarily) were compared to patients treated and released before hospital admission.
Results: In total, 573 patients with COPD had 995 episodes of exacerbation treated by the MECU in the 2-year period. On September 1, 2005, only 155 patients (27%) were alive. In 245 of the exacerbation episodes (25%) among 163 patients, hospital admission was not necessary primarily, but in 42 of these exacerbations (17%), secondary admission occurred within 48 h. Mortality was significantly higher (p = 0.02) in patients admitted to the hospital either primarily or secondarily, compared to patients treated and released before admission to the hospital.
Conclusions: Mortality was high among COPD patients. Less than one fifth of patients treated at home and released are admitted to hospital secondarily. Mortality was significantly higher among admitted patients. A set of criteria selecting the patient prone to secondary admission is desirable.