Personalized Variable vs Fixed-Dose Systemic Corticosteroid Therapy in Hospitalized Patients With Acute Exacerbations of COPD: A Prospective, Multicenter, Randomized, Open-Label Clinical Trial

Chest. 2021 Nov;160(5):1660-1669. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2021.05.024. Epub 2021 May 21.


Background: Systemic corticosteroids for the treatment of COPD exacerbations decrease treatment failure and shorten the length of hospitalization. However, the optimal dose is unclear.

Research question: Is personalized-dose corticosteroid administered according to a dosing scale more effective than fixed-dose corticosteroid administration in hospitalized patients with COPD with exacerbations?

Study design and methods: This was a prospective, randomized, open-label trial. In-hospital patients with COPD with exacerbations were randomly assigned at a 1:1 ratio to either the fixed-dose group (receiving the equivalent of 40 mg of prednisolone) or the personalized-dose group for 5 days. The primary end point was a composite measure of treatment failure that included in-hospital treatment failure and medium-term (postdischarge) failure. Secondary end points were length of stay and cost.

Results: A total of 248 patients were randomly assigned to the fixed-dose group (n = 124) or personalized-dose group (n = 124). One patient in each group was not included in the intention-to-treat population because of incorrect initial COPD diagnosis. Failure of therapy occurred in 27.6% in the personalized-dose group, compared with 48.8% in the fixed-dose group (relative risk, 0.40; 95% CI, 0.24-0.68; P = .001). The in-hospital failure of therapy was significantly lower in the personalized-dose group (10.6% vs 24.4%; P = .005), whereas the medium-term failure rate, adverse event rate, hospital length of stay, and costs were similar between the two groups. After treatment failure, a lower additional dose of corticosteroids and a shorter duration of treatment were needed in the personalized-dose group to achieve control of the exacerbation. In the personalized-dose cohort, those receiving 40 mg or less had an average failure rate of 44.4%, compared with 22.9% among those receiving more than 40 mg (P = .027).

Interpretation: Personalized dosing of corticosteroids reduces the risk of failure because more patients were provided with a higher initial dose, especially > 60 mg, whereas 40 mg or less was too low in either group.

Clinical trial registration:; No.: NCT02147015; URL:

Keywords: COPD; corticosteroid; exacerbation; personalized; treatment failure.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Aged
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug*
  • Drug Dosage Calculations
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids* / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Length of Stay / economics
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / mortality
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / therapy
  • Symptom Assessment / methods
  • Symptom Flare Up


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Glucocorticoids

Associated data