Feature Article

COPD exacerbations – improving outcomes

Paul King



Early diagnosis and treatment of exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may improve outcomes and avoid the need for hospital admission.

Key Points

  • An exacerbation of COPD is characterised by a change in the patient’s baseline symptoms of dyspnoea, cough and/or sputum production that is acute in onset and may warrant a change in medication.
  • An increased respiratory rate and/or airway inflammation may result in dynamic hyperinflation and gas trapping.
  • Appropriate management of exacerbations includes the use of bronchodilators, systemic corticosteroids, antibiotics and, in severe exacerbations, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation.
  • Patients who have had one exacerbation are highly likely to have a recurrence. An appropriate follow-up management plan and early initiation of therapy may improve outcomes.