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'Self-Managing' COPD Might Pose Risks, Study Suggests
Date:5/14/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- In a finding that seems counterintuitive, a new study revealed that people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were more likely to die after receiving comprehensive education and self-management tools.

"The comprehensive care management program was associated with unanticipated excess mortality," wrote study authors Dr. Vincent Fan, of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, and colleagues. They added that this finding differed significantly from previous studies done on self-management in COPD. And, the program used in the study also failed to decrease COPD-related hospitalizations.

The results are published in the May 15 online issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

COPD refers to either emphysema or chronic bronchitis. These progressive lung diseases are usually caused by cigarette smoking, and make it harder and harder to breathe as they get worse. COPD causes the production of mucus, which leads to coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Symptoms can get worse very quickly, particularly after an infection, and these disease exacerbations (flare-ups) often result in the need to be hospitalized, according to background information in the journal.

Findings from several previous studies suggested that educating COPD patients and helping them design emergency plans could help reduce the number of hospitalizations.

The current study included 426 people being treated for COPD at one of 20 Veterans Affairs hospital-based outpatient clinics. The study volunteers were almost all male (about 97 percent), and about nine of 10 were white. About half were married, and most had graduated from high school and attended some college or vocational school. Just under 30 percent were still smoking.

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