Retrospective evaluation of systemic corticosteroids for the management of acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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The use of systemic corticosteroids for the management of acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD) was studied.


Medical charts of patients admitted to the hospital between July 2002 and November 2003 with a primary diagnosis of AECOPD were retrospectively reviewed. The primary objective was to characterize the drug, dosage, route, frequency, and duration of systemic corticosteroids prescribed for the management of AECOPD. The secondary objective was to compare the mean length of stay (LOS) and 30-day relapse rate between patients who received lower and higher dosages of corticosteroids.


One hundred forty-five admissions (123 patients) for AECOPD (mean ± S.D. age, 65 ± 11 years) were evaluated. Higher dosages of systemic corticosteroids (>80 mg of prednisone equivalent [PE] per day) were prescribed for 51% and i.v. therapy for 56% of admissions. The mean ± S.D. total systemic corticosteroid exposure during hospitalization for all admissions was 759 ± 971 mg of PE (mean ± S.D. daily exposure = 134 ± 111 mg of PE per day). The mean LOS was significantly longer for the higher-dosage group than for the lower-dosage group (6.1 versus 4.2 days, p = 0.0004). A tapered regimen was prescribed for 79% of discharges. Twenty-seven percent of the discharges with routine follow-up care had a relapse of disease within 30 days.


This retrospective observational study confirmed a wide variability in the dosages of systemic corticosteroids for the inpatient management of AECOPD, including the use of higher dosages and tapered regimens. Prospective randomized studies are needed to determine the most effective regimen of systemic corticosteroids in patients with AECOPD.

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