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Thorax. 2011 Nov;66(11):977-84. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2011-200071. Epub 2011 Jul 23.

Effect of an action plan with ongoing support by a case manager on exacerbation-related outcome in patients with COPD: a multicentre randomised controlled trial.

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  • 1Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht, The Netherlands.



An individualised action plan (AP) is a potentially effective method of helping patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to recognise and anticipate early exacerbation symptoms. This multicentre randomised controlled trial evaluates the hypothesis that individualised APs reduce exacerbation recovery time.


Two hundred and thirty-three patients with COPD (age 65±10 years, forced expiratory volume in 1 s 56±21% predicted) were randomised to receive either an individualised AP (n=111) or care as usual (n=122). The AP provides individualised treatment prescriptions (pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical) related to a colour-coded symptom status to enhance an adequate response to periods of symptom deterioration (reinforced at 1 and 4 months). Exacerbation onset was defined using the Anthonisen symptom diary card algorithm. Every 3 days the Clinical COPD Questionnaire (CCQ) was assessed to evaluate the longitudinal course of health status. The primary outcome was health status recovery in the event of an exacerbation.


During the 6-month follow-up period there was no difference in exacerbation rates and healthcare utilisation between the two groups. Cox-adjusted survival analysis including frailty showed enhanced health status recovery (HR 1.58; 95% CI 0.96 to 2.60) and reduced length of the exacerbation (HR 1.30; 95% CI 0.92 to 1.84). The mean difference in symptom recovery time was -3.68 days (95% CI -7.32 to -0.04). Mixed model repeated measure analysis showed that an AP decreased the impact of exacerbations on health status both in the prodromal and early post-onset periods. Between-group differences in CCQ scores were above the minimal clinically relevant difference of 0.4 points (3.0±0.7 vs. 3.4±0.9; p≤0.01).


This study shows that an individualised AP, including ongoing support by a case manager, decreases the impact of exacerbations on health status and tends to accelerate recovery. APs can be considered a key component of self-management programmes in patients with COPD.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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