One Exacerbation of COPD May Lead to Another

If you have a flare-up of COPD, there's a chance you'll have another one within two months, a study suggests. Researchers looked at daily symptom diaries that were kept for at least one year by 297 COPD patients. They found that 27 percent of initial flare-ups (as opposed to a relapse due to failed treatment of an exacerbation) were followed by a second event within eight weeks. These recurrent flare-ups occurred despite full recovery from the preceding event.

The researchers also found that exacerbations were more common in the winter than in the summer and that "isolated" flare-ups (an exacerbation that was neither preceded within eight weeks nor followed within eight weeks by another exacerbation) tended to be about 25 percent more severe than the first of a series of flare-ups. COPD exacerbations can lead to hospitalization, serious complications, and lung function decline. Many patients never fully recover the lung function lost during a flare-up.

The eight weeks after a COPD flare-up appears to be a crucial time for monitoring and follow-up to prevent or minimize further events. If you experience a COPD flare-up, stay in close contact with your doctor over the next two months, and quickly report any signs of a new exacerbation to your doctor.

Source: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine Volume 179, page 369; March 1, 2009

Publication Review By: Peter B. Terry, M.D., M.A.

Published: 12 Aug 2013

Last Modified: 12 Aug 2013