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Randomised controlled trial of supported discharge in patients with exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


BACKGROUND A randomised trial was performed on patients presenting to hospital with an exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to compare outcomes in those managed at home with support with those admitted to hospital in the standard manner.

METHODS Over an 18 month period all patients presenting to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh on weekdays (n=718) with a diagnosis of an exacerbation of COPD were assessed for inclusion in the trial. Patients with impaired level of consciousness, acute confusion, acute changes on radiography, or an arterial pH of <7.35 or with other serious medical or social reasons for admission were excluded. Patients randomised to home support were discharged with an appropriate treatment package (antibiotics, corticosteroids, nebulised bronchodilators and, if necessary, home oxygen). They were visited by a nurse the following day and thereafter at intervals of 2–3 days until recovery when they were discharged from follow up. Parallel observations were made on patients allocated to normal hospital admission up to the point of discharge. Patients in both groups were assessed at home eight weeks after the initial assessment.

RESULTS Among weekday patients 353 (50%) were considered obligatory admissions, 140 (19%) were admitted because of co-morbidity, 17 (2%) because of poor social circumstances, and 24 (3%) did not consent to the trial. The remaining 184 (26%) were randomised (2:1) either to home support or to a standard hospital admission. The median time to discharge was 7 days for the home support group and 5 days for the admitted group (p<0.01); 25% of the home support group and 34% of the admitted group were readmitted before the final assessment at eight weeks (p>0.05). There were no significant differences between the groups in attendances by GPs and carers or in health status measured eight weeks after the initial assessment. Satisfaction with the service was good. The mean total health service cost per patient was estimated as £877 for the home support group and £1753 for the admitted group.

CONCLUSIONS This study shows that home supported discharge is a well tolerated, safe, and economic alternative to hospital admission for a proportion of patients referred to hospital for admission for an exacerbation of COPD.

  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • assisted discharge from hospital
  • cost effectiveness

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