Background and aim: The Italian Costs for Exacerbations in COPD ("ICE") study, following a pharmacoeconomic assessment of costs due to COPD exacerbations (primary endpoint), aimed also at evaluating (secondary endpoint) which clinical factors, among those considered for cost-analysis, may, at follow up, present a risk of new exacerbations and re-admission to hospital.
Materials and methods: A prospective, multicentre study was carried out on COPD patients admitted to 25 Hospital Centres as a result of an exacerbation from October-December 2002. Following discharge, a 6-month follow-up was performed in each patient via three bi-monthly telephone interviews with a questionnaire administered by an investigator clinician.
Results: 570 patients were eligible for data processing, mean age 70.6 years (+/- 9.5 standard deviation, SD), males 69.2%. According to GOLD, severity stratification was as follows: moderate 36.4%; severe 31.3%; very severe 32.3%. 282 patients experienced at least one exacerbation at follow up, 42% of exacerbations requiring hospitalisation. No significant association was seen between exacerbations and GOLD stage or co-morbidities or treatments except LTOT. Conversely, COPD functional severity influenced hospitalisations very significantly, with relative risks 2.6 (95% Confidence Interval, CI 1.8-3.8) and 2.0 (CI 1.3-2.8) (GOLD very severe versus moderate and severe, respectively), and 1.3 (CI 0.85-2.1) (GOLD severe versus moderate). Hospitalisations were also significantly associated with treatments denoting more severe conditions (oral corticosteroids, oral theophylline, and LTOT).
Conclusions: Severity stratification of COPD patients according to respiratory function classes as outlined in GOLD guidelines and need for LTOT are confirmed as important predictors of hospitalisation for an exacerbation.