Rationale: Patients hospitalized for a COPD exacerbation are usually of advanced age, with functional deterioration, and suffering an increased number of associated conditions, but little is known about gender differences. Our hypothesis is that the frequency and type of comorbidities differ in male and female COPD patients.
Material and methods: A cross-sectional, multicentre study of patients hospitalized for a COPD exacerbation. All of them had COPD confirmed by baseline forced spirometry with a bronchodilator test. Comorbidity information was collected using the Charlson index, and an ad hoc questionnaire that included other common conditions not included in the Charlson index.
Results: We studied 398 patients, 353 men (89%) and 45 women (11%), with a mean (S.D.) age of 73.7 (8.9) years and a percent predicted FEV(1) of 43.2 (12.5). The mean score of the Charlson index was 2.7 (2.0), with no differences by gender; in contrast, the mean number of all comorbid conditions assessed was 3.7 (1.7) in men and 1.8 (1.8) in women (p < 0.05). Overall, 55% of the patients had arterial hypertension, 26% diabetes mellitus, 27% chronic heart failure, and 17% ischemic heart disease. Female COPD patients had a lower prevalence of ischemic heart disease (p = 0.008) and alcoholism (p = 0.03), but presented more frequently with chronic heart failure (p = 0.03), osteoporosis (p = 0.007) and diabetes mellitus without complications (p = 0.02).
Conclusions: Comorbidities are common in patients hospitalized for a COPD exacerbation, but their relative distribution varies by gender. The exclusive use of the Charlson index underestimates comorbidities in COPD patients.