Background: Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) reduces mortality and intubation rates in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) admitted to hospital with respiratory acidosis. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of respiratory acidosis in patients admitted with COPD, to draw inferences about oxygen therapy, and to determine the need for NIV services for acute COPD in typical UK hospitals.
Methods: This one year prospective prevalence study identified patients with COPD aged 45-79 years inclusive who were admitted to Leeds General Infirmary, St James's University, and Killingbeck Hospitals, Leeds between 1 March 1997 and 28 February 1998. The prevalence of respiratory acidosis and the relationship with oxygenation are described. Other outcomes included intensive care use and in hospital mortality. From this data population prevalence estimates were determined for respiratory acidosis, from which the need for NIV in a typical district general hospital was modelled.
Results: 983 patients were admitted, 11 of whom required immediate intubation. 20% of the remaining 972 had a respiratory acidosis. Acidosis was associated with subsequent admission to the intensive care unit (ICU): pH<7.25, OR 6.10 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.19 to 31.11); pH 7.25-7.30, OR 8.73 (95% CI 2.11 to 36.06). pH was inversely correlated with arterial oxygen tension (PaO(2)) in the 47% of patients who were hypercapnic, with a PaO(2) of >10 kPa being associated with acidosis in most hypercapnic patients. 80% remained acidotic after initial treatment, giving an age/sex specific prevalence for England and Wales of 75 (95% CI 61 to 90)/100 000/year for men aged 45-79 years and 57 (95% CI 46 to 69)/100 000/year for women. Modelling the need for NIV for all COPD patients indicates that a typical UK hospital will admit 90 patients per year with acidosis of which 72 will require NIV.
Conclusions: In patients with acute COPD the PaO(2) should be maintained at 7.3-10 kPa (SaO(2) 85-92%) to avoid the dangers of hypoxia and acidosis. If all COPD patients with a respiratory acidosis (pH<7.35) after initial treatment are offered NIV, a typical UK hospital will treat 72 patients per year.