Neural respiratory drive predicts clinical deterioration and safe discharge in exacerbations of COPD

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Hospitalised patients with acute exacerbation of COPD may deteriorate despite treatment, with early readmission being common.


To investigate whether neural respiratory drive, measured using second intercostal space parasternal muscle electromyography (EMGpara), would identify worsening dyspnoea and physician-defined inpatient clinical deterioration, and predict early readmission.


Patients admitted to a single-site university hospital with exacerbation of COPD were enrolled. Spirometry, inspiratory capacity (IC), EMGpara, routine physiological parameters, modified early warning score (MEWS), modified Borg scale for dyspnoea and physician-defined episodes of deterioration were recorded daily until discharge. Readmissions at 14 and 28 days post discharge were recorded.

Measurements and main results

120 patients were recruited (age 70±9 years, forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) of 30.5±11.2%). Worsening dyspnoea, defined as at least one-point increase in Borg scale, was associated with increases in EMGpara%max and MEWS, whereas an increase in EMGpara%max alone was associated with physician-defined inpatient clinical deterioration. Admission-to-discharge change (Δ) in the normalised value of EMGpara (ΔEMGpara%max) was inversely correlated with ΔFEV1 (r=−0.38, p<0.001) and ΔIC (r=−0.44, p<0.001). ΔEMGpara%max predicted 14-day readmission (OR 1.13, 95% 1.03 to 1.23) in the whole cohort and 28-day readmission in patients under 85 years (OR 1.09, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.18). Age (OR 1.08, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.14) and 12-month admission frequency (OR 1.29, 1.01 to 1.66), also predicted 28-day readmission in the whole cohort.


Measurement of neural respiratory drive by EMGpara represents a novel physiological biomarker that may be helpful in detecting inpatient clinical deterioration and identifying the risk of early readmission among patients with exacerbations of COPD.

Trial registration


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