Fatigue in COPD Patients Often Precedes Hospitalization: Study

THURSDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- Fatigue could be used to predict the risk of hospitalization for people with a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a new study says.

COPD refers to either emphysema or chronic bronchitis. Besides fatigue, symptoms include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Symptoms can rapidly worsen, making it hard to breathe, and such COPD flare-ups often put patients in the hospital.

The new study findings could be used by doctors to reduce hospital admissions for people with COPD, which could improve patients' quality of life and decrease the economic impact of the disease, according to the researchers.

They assessed 83 COPD patients and found that those with the most severe fatigue were almost 14 times more likely to be hospitalized within 20 months than those with the least fatigue. And the more severe the fatigue, the longer the hospital stay.

The results indicate that fatigue levels are associated with COPD severity and that fatigue is a strong predictor of hospitalization for COPD patients, the researchers said.

The study was published online June 13 in the European Respiratory Journal.

"There has been little research into the clinical significance of reports of fatigue. Our study has helped to show that patients' experiences of fatigue could be used as a predictor of hospital admissions," lead author Dr. Johanna Paddison, of Repatriation General Hospital in Adelaide, Australia, said in a journal news release.

"As hospitalizations for COPD can impact upon quality of life and have economic consequences, the results of this study have significant implications for the management of COPD," she added.

Fatigue is the second most common symptom of COPD, after breathlessness. Symptoms of fatigue can be physical and mental, such as lack of energy or poor concentration.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about COPD.

SOURCE: European Respiratory Journal, news release, June 13, 2012

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