Objective: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a widespread illness with an increasing prevalence in older adults; exacerbations resulting in visits to the emergency department (ED) are common. We sought to determine the epidemiology of COPD presentations to EDs by older adults in Alberta.
Methods: Administrative databases were used to examine all ED encounters for COPD from April 1999 to March 2005 in Alberta. Data included demographics of patients and timing of ED visits. Data analysis included descriptive summaries and age-sex directly standardized visit rates (DSVRs).
Results: There were 85 330 ED visits for acute COPD made by 38 638 patients 55 years of age or older during the study period. More men (53.2%) presented, and the mean age at presentation was 72 years. The age-sex DSVRs remained stable from 2000/01 (24.4/1000) to 2004/05 (25.6/1000). Presentation rates differed among population subgroups. Overall, 67% of visits resulted in discharge from the ED.
Conclusion: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a common presentation in Alberta EDs; however, the rates of presentation were stable during the study period, and monthly and hourly trends exhibited similar patterns for each year. Disparities based on age, sex, and socio-economic and cultural statuses were identified. Targeted interventions could be implemented to reduce future ED visits for COPD.