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Mortality Rate for COPD Inpatients Drops Dramatically Since 2005

The number of hospitalizations for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) hasn’t changed much over the last decade or so, but in-hospital deaths have plummeted, a new study reports.

The information presented at the recent American Thoracic Society 2017 International Conference in Washington, DC, was based on data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Inpatient Sample, which includes nearly all hospital discharges in the United States.

University of Arizona-led researchers found about 8.5 million hospitalizations for COPD-related health problems from 2005-2014 and that, during that period, in-hospital deaths dropped 62%, from 24,226 to 9,090.

"This is certainly an encouraging trend," said lead author Khushboo Goel, MD, a second-year internal medicine resident at the University of Arizona. "We expected to see a decline because of improvements in caring for conditions such as pneumonia, sepsis, septic shock, and thromboembolic diseases associated with COPD exacerbations, but the magnitude of the decline in mortality was surprising."

The decreased mortality trend was across the board and not affected by race or ethnicity, she noted. In-hospital mortality decreased from 3.2% in 2005 to 1.4% in 2012 for white patients, 2.1% to 0.66% for black patients, and 2.3% to 1.2% for Hispanic patients, according to the results.

The study also found that most (57%-58%) hospitalizations involved women, who also accounted for 51% to 55% of the deaths.

"Other studies suggest possible explanations for the higher COPD burden women in the U.S. have, including the growing number of women who smoke, the increased severity of symptoms they may experience, and longer life expectancy,” Goel explained.

The study also found that from 2005 to 2014, the average age of those hospitalized was 67 and didn’t vary much. The number of COPD patients treated at teaching hospitals jumped up from 212,346 to 371,215, according to the report, and the average length of a hospital stay dropped from 5.2 days to 4.2 days.

The study adds that COPD has been the third-leading cause of death in the United States since 2008.