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Respir Care. 2004 Jan;49(1):90-7; discussion 97-8.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: the last year of life.

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  • 1Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Division, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia PA 19104, USA. jflash@mail.med.upenn.edu

Abstract

Nearly one quarter million Americans die with or of advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) each year. Many patients die after a prolonged functional decline that is accompanied by much suffering. Though difficult prognostically and emotionally, anticipation of death opens the door to planning and preparing for terminal care. Epidemiologists have begun to identify characteristics of COPD patients who are most likely to die within 6-12 months, including severe, irreversible airflow obstruction, severely impaired and declining exercise capacity and performance status, older age, concomitant cardiovascular or other co-morbid disease, and a history of recent hospitalizations for acute care. Clinicians are encouraged to raise the difficult subject of planning for death when many of these characteristics apply. Patients with far-advanced disease are often receptive to the recommendation of a dual agenda: "Hope for and expect the best, and prepare for the worst." Medical advance planning is best pursued in an out-patient office during a prescheduled, 3-way conversation between patient, health care proxy, and physician. An advance directive can be written after the meeting to summarize the conversation. Clinicians should consider recommending hospice care when a COPD patient is at high risk of respiratory failure from the next chest infection and in need of frequent or specialized home care. Preparation for death should include a realistic appraisal of the prospects for dying peacefully at home and a contingency plan for terminal hospitalization, should the need arise.

PMID:
14733625
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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