Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

The Open Nursing Journal 10 Feb 2012 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1874434601206010013


Epidemiologic data indicate that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Patients with poorly managed COPD are likely to experience exacerbations that require emergency department visits or hospitalization—two important drivers contributing to escalating healthcare resource use and costs associated with the disease. Exacerbations also contribute to worsening lung function and negative outcomes in COPD. The aim of this review is to present the perspective of nurse practitioners and physician assistants in terms of providing the pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic modalities needed to treat current and prevent future exacerbations. Major respiratory guidelines recommend treatment of acute exacerbations with short-acting bronchodilators, oral corticosteroids and antibiotics, as appropriate. Supplementary oxygen and/or ventilatory support may also be beneficial to selected patients. Treatments to minimize the risk of future exacerbations should include maintenance pharmacotherapies, risk-reduction measures (e.g. smoking cessation, influenza and pneumonia vaccinations), pulmonary rehabilitation, self-management support and follow-up care.

Keywords: COPD, exacerbations, follow-up care, nurse practitioner, physician assistant.
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