Aim: To audit the assessment and management of patients admitted to hospital with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) during three months of the winter of 1992.
Methods: Consensus management guidelines were developed as the basis for the audit. Consecutive cases were audited by review of the case notes. Half were admitted initially under a respiratory physician and half under a general physician. Ninety-five cases were audited.
Results: The overall standard of medical assessment was adequate but a number of deficiencies were identified. The mean duration of stay in hospital was nine days. In the emergency department the use of pulse oximetry in preference to arterial blood gas analysis led to failure to diagnose significant ventilatory failure in five cases. Initial assessment by junior medical staff failed to include comment about level of consciousness in 50% of cases and chest hyperinflation in 40%. Oxygen therapy was given in 87% of cases, but was not prescribed in one third and was often not adequately monitored. Peak flow monitoring was performed on admission in 74% of cases and arterial blood gas measurement in 81%. Over 90% of patients were given nebulised bronchodilator therapy with both nebulised ipratropium bromide and salbutamol. Antibiotics were given in 77% of cases. Corticosteroids were given in 95% of cases, usually orally. Sedatives were prescribed inappropriately in six cases where there was acute ventilatory failure. Four patients died in hospital, none unexpectedly. Three patients were mechanically ventilated and all survived to leave hospital. There was no discharge summary in the case records in 29% of cases.
Conclusions: Standards of assessment and treatment were adequate. Several areas were identified where improvements are required, particularly in the prescribing and monitoring of oxygen therapy. Hospital-wide guidelines for the management of COPD are to be developed.