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A validation of the National Early Warning Score to predict outcome in patients with COPD exacerbation
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  • Published on:
    Change in NEWS from emergency department to medical ward in patients with COPD
    • Martin B Whyte, Consultant Physician King's College NHS Foundation Trust
    • Other Contributors:
      • Mustafa Kadam, Registrar Acute Medicine
      • Philip Kelly, Consultant Physician

    We read the article by Hodgson LE, et al with interest. The authors examined the performance of National Early Warning Score (NEWS) for patients with an acute exacerbation of COPD. A limitation to this study was that the electronic scores (ward-based) were used as first NEWS - as the (paper) observations within the emergency department (ED) could not be included. We have reviewed data from our Hospital Trust of patients admitted with exacerbation of COPD (n=111), to determine whether NEWS scores from the ED department (paper records) differed from the first observation recorded on subsequent transfer to the acute medical wards (Electronic Patient Records). Admissions direct to ICU or HDU were excluded. Wilcoxon rank test was used to compare NEWS scores from ED to ward. Results are median (IQR).
    NEWS in ED fell from 6 (4-8) to 4 (3-6) on the acute medical ward (P<0.0001) over a mean time interval of 377 (sd 182) mins. The change in NEWS was due to a reduction in scores for respiratory rate and heart rate. Improvement in score for oxygen saturations was offset by scoring for use of oxygen.
    Not including the NEWS at presentation could underestimate risk of mortality, and hence contribute to the reduced sensitivity of NEWS that was observed in patients with COPD. Alternatively, utilising the NEWS at presentation to ED may lead to lower specificity in a patient with rapidly improving physiology.
    Harmonisation of data collection between ED and the hospital...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    A validation of the National Early Warning Score to predict outcome in patients with COPD exacerbation - Author response
    • Luke E Hodgson, SpR Respiratory & ICM University of Southampton
    • Other Contributors:
      • Paul J Roderick, Professor of Public Health
      • Jo Congleton, Respiratory Consultant
      • Lui G Forni, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine
      • Richard Venn, Consultant Intensive Care Medicine

    We thank Cardwell et al for their thoughtful comments on our paper.[1] The two alternative scoring systems did not demonstrate improved discrimination or calibration in our large dataset of AECOPD admissions. The authors suggest employing the Salford-NEWS only in patients ‘at risk’ of hypercapnic respiratory failure however, this introduces a subjective element that may negate the benefits of an objective physiological scoring system. As we emphasised in what we believe was a balanced discussion, patients with COPD should be managed in the right place by specialists and on-going education is crucial to avoid potential harms associated with misinterpretation of the NEWS alluded to by Cardwell and colleagues. Our article adds evidence that suggested RCP thresholds would indeed lead to unnecessary callouts in such patients. However, as we proposed, rather than abandon a scoring system that provides the significant advantages of standardisation and familiarity, it is possible to individualise patient management. For example, lowering observation frequency in a patient who is clinically ‘stable’, not increasing oxygen delivery if the prescribed target saturation is achieved, or taking into account prior/baseline physiology when deciding observation frequency and whether a senior review is required. Indeed a senior review may be appropriate to interpret whether the patient is at risk of hypercapnic respiratory failure and be able to advise on appropriate targets and level of mon...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    NEWS in COPD - Two different uses, one big problem
    • Sinan R Eccles, Consultant Respiratory Physician Royal Glamorgan Hospital, South Wales

    I enjoyed reading Hodgson et al’s validation study on Early Warning Scores (EWS) in patients admitted with an exacerbation of COPD. The current problem with EWS such as the National Early Warning Score (NEWS) in such patients is that the score is used in two contexts.

    The first is in the initial triage of patients on arrival to hospital based on their early risk of death. NEWS is well validated in this context, and I wholeheartedly agree that NEWS is the best tool for this at present; patients at risk of type 2 respiratory failure, with target oxygen saturations of 88-92%, are at a high risk of death in hospital and identifying these patients early to enable senior review is entirely appropriate.

    The problem comes with second use of NEWS – as a “track and trigger” tool used to monitor patients during their inpatient stay, with a rising score indicating deterioration, risk of death and the need for intervention. Hodgson et al have confirmed our finding that NEWS lacks specificity for patients with COPD. These patients will often have persistently high NEWS even when stable, well into their admission, and the actions this is supposed to trigger (hourly observations, senior review, etc.) are no longer appropriate. This leads to alarm fatigue, with high scores being ignored, increasing the risk of a true deterioration not being acted upon.

    The proposals of Hodgson et al that such patients should have individually assigned observation frequencie...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    I was the corresponding author for the derivation study of CREWS which is discussed in the present study.
  • Published on:
    Salford NEWS score used incorrectly in paper by Hodgson et al
    • Glenn Cardwell, Clinical Fellow in Respiratory Medicine Salford Royal Hospital, Salford M6 8HD
    • Other Contributors:
      • Nawar Diar-Bakerly, Consultant Respiratory Physician
      • Peter M Turkington, Consultant Respiratory Physician
      • Peter Murphy, Deputy Director of Nursing
      • B Ronan O'Driscoll, Consultant Respiratory Physician

    We read the paper of Hodgson and colleagues with interest.1 Unfortunately, we note that the Salford-NEWS system (observation chart based on target Oxygen saturation prescription) has been applied in this study to all patients with a diagnosis of acute exacerbation of COPD (AECOPD) whereas we proposed applying this system for all patients at risk of type 2 (hypercapnic) respiratory failure, a group which includes many but not all patients with AECOPD and a number of patients with other conditions.2 Around 86% of those prescribed the lower range of Oxygen saturation (88-92%) in Salford are COPD patients judged to be at risk of hypercapnia, the remainder have conditions such as morbid obesity, neuro-muscular disorders, or complex lung diseases.3 Given this key difference in rationale we suggest that the Salford-NEWS system has been inappropriately applied in this study; hence, the conclusions have to be interpreted with extreme caution.

    When comparing NEWS with Salford-NEWS, it is clear that none of the systems had acceptable sensitivity at score thresholds of 5 and 7, and the most consistently reliable result from using either of them is the negative predictive value, which was similar. It was also evident that Salford-NEWS had better specificity at 91% and 95% compared to 57% and 80% for NEWS at score thresholds of 5 and 7 respectively. Since the increased sensitivity in NEWS is achieved at the expense of high “callout” rates, and low positive predictive value (8%...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.