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Clinical validation of a risk scale for serious outcomes among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease managed in the emergency department.

BACKGROUND: The Ottawa chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) Risk Scale (OCRS), which consists of 10 criteria, was previously derived to identify patients in the emergency department with COPD who were at high risk for short-term serious outcomes. We sought to validate, prospectively and explicitly, the OCRS when applied by physicians in the emergency department.

METHODS: We conducted this prospective cohort study involving patients in the emergency departments at 6 tertiary care hospitals and enrolled adults with acute exacerbation of COPD from May 2011 to December 2013. Physicians evaluated patients for the OCRS criteria, which were recorded on a data form along with the total risk score. We followed patients for 30 days and the primary outcome, short-term serious outcomes, was defined as any of death, admission to monitored unit, intubation, noninvasive ventilation, myocardial infarction (MI) or relapse with hospital admission.

RESULTS: We enrolled 1415 patients with a mean age of 70.6 (SD 10.6) years and 50.2% were female. Short-term serious outcomes occurred in 135 (9.5%) cases. Incidence of short-term serious outcomes ranged from 4.6% for a total score of 0 to 100% for a score of 10. Compared with current practice, an OCRS score threshold of greater than 1 would increase sensitivity for short-term serious outcomes from 51.9% to 79.3% and increase admissions from 45.0% to 56.6%. A threshold of greater than 2 would improve sensitivity to 71.9% with 47.9% of patients being admitted.

INTERPRETATION: In this clinical validation of a risk-stratification tool for COPD in the emergency department, we found that OCRS showed better sensitivity for short-term serious outcomes compared with current practice. This risk scale can now be used to help emergency department disposition decisions for patients with COPD, which should lead to a decrease in unnecessary admissions and in unsafe discharges.

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