Coded cause of death and timing of COPD diagnosis

A. Simon Pickard, Eunmi Jung, Brian Bartle, Kevin B. Weiss, Todd A. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The aims of this study were to characterize causes of death among veterans with COPD using multiple cause of death coding, and to examine whether causes of death differed according to timing of COPD diagnosis. Veterans with COPD who died during a five-year follow-up period were identified from national VA databases linked to National Death Index files. Primary, secondary, underlying, and all-coded causes of death were compared between recent and preexistent COPD cohorts using proportional mortality ratios (PMRs), which compares proportion dying from specific causes as opposed to absolute risk of death. Of 26,357 decedents, 7,729 were categorized preexistent and 18,628 were recent COPD cases. Unspecified COPD was listed as underlying cause of death in a significantly greater proportion of preexistent COPD cases compared to recent cases, 20% vs 10%, PMR = 2.0 (95% CI: 1.9-2.1). A relatively higher proportion of recently diagnosed cases died from lung/bronchus, prostate, and site-unspecified cancers. Respiratory failure (J969) was rarely coded as an underlying or primary cause (< 1%), but was a second-code cause of death in 9% of recent and 12% of preexistent cases. Differences in coded causes of death between patients with a recent diagnosis of COPD compared to a preexistent diagnosis of COPD suggests that there is either coded cause-related bias or true differences in cause of death related to length of time with diagnosis. Thus, methods used to identify cohorts of COPD patients, i.e., incidence versus prevalence-based approaches, and coded cause of death can affect estimates of cause-specific mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-47
Number of pages7
JournalCOPD: Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 28 2009


  • COPD
  • Cause of death
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Mortality
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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