Background: Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have well-documented symptoms that affect quality of life. Professional societies recommend palliative care for such patients, but the optimal way of delivering this care is unknown.
Objective: To describe an outpatient palliative medicine program for patients with COPD.
Design: Retrospective case series. Setting/Subjects: Thirty-six patients with COPD followed in a United States academic outpatient palliative medicine clinic.
Measurements: Descriptive analysis of sociodemographic data, disease severity and comorbidities, treatments, hospitalizations, mortality, topic discussion, and symptom assessment.
Results: Thirty-six patients (representing 5% of the total number of patients with COPD seen in a specialty pulmonary clinic) were seen over 11 months and followed for 2 years. Seventy-seven percent of patients were Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) stage 3-4 and 72% were on oxygen at home. No patients had documented advanced directives at the initial visit but documentation increased to 61% for those who had follow-up appointments. The most commonly documented topics included symptoms (100%), social issues (94%), psychological issues (78%), and advance care planning (75%). Of symptoms assessed, pain was the least prevalent (51.6%), and breathlessness and fatigue were the most prevalent (100%). Symptoms were often undertreated prior to the palliative care appointment. During the 3-year study period, there were 120 hospital admissions (median, 2) and 12 deaths (33%).
Conclusions: The patients with COPD seen in the outpatient palliative medicine clinic had many comorbid conditions, severe illness, and significant symptom burden. Many physical and psychological symptoms were untreated prior to the palliative medicine appointment. Whether addressing these symptoms through a palliative medicine intervention affects outcomes in COPD is unknown but represents an important topic for future research.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine