Outcomes Following Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Presentations to Emergency Departments in Alberta: A Population-Based Study
INTRODUCTION: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a complex, multisystem disorder that often results in exacerbations requiring emergency department (ED) management. Following an exacerbation and discharge from the ED, reassessment and management adjustment with a health care provider are recommended to re-establish control of the disease.OBJECTIVES: To describe outcomes of all COPD presentations to EDs made by adults in Alberta including the time spent in the ED and the physician visits following the ED visit.METHODS: Provincial administrative databases were used to obtain all ED encounters for COPD during six fiscal years (1999 to 2005). The information extracted included demographics, ED visit timing, and acute and subacute outcomes (physician visits up to 365 days after discharge for all 7302 discharged individuals during a one-year period). Data analysis included descriptive summaries and survival curves.RESULTS: There were 85,330 ED visits for acute COPD, of which 67% were discharged from the ED. Median ED length of stay was longer in large urban areas (Calgary: 5 h 9 min; Edmonton: 4 h 58 min) than in other regions of Alberta (1 h 17 min). Admissions resulted from 32% of visits and varied among regions; however, few were admitted to the intensive care unit (1%) or died (0.1%). Following discharge, the median time to first follow-up with a physician was 13 days; however, only 40% of patients had follow-up visits in the first seven days. Repeat ED visits within seven days occurred in 5.7% of discharged patients, while 25.6% of discharged patients had repeat ED visits within 365 days of discharge.CONCLUSIONS: More than 30% of COPD ED visits resulted in admission; regional variation was significant. Moreover, discharged patients experienced delayed follow-up and often required repeat ED visits. Interventions to improve reassessment and reduce COPD-related repeat ED visits should be explored.