TREATMENT AND PROGNOSIS

You will likely receive several different treatments while in hospital for a lung flare-up. It is important to understand the role of each treatment and to ask if you are unsure why it is being prescribed. Review some of the common therapies below and click on the image to find out more.

Relievers

Taken at a higher frequency or dose than usual to manage increased symptoms

Corticosteroids

Taken orally or via an intravenous line to reduce airway inflammation and help reduce the severity and duration of the flare-up

Antibiotics

May be prescribed if an airway infection is thought to be contributing to the flare-up

Oxygen

Provided where there is evidence of inadequate levels of oxygen in the bloodstream

Non-invasive ventilation

Breathing support delivered via a nose or face mask when prolonged bouts of breathing distress cause inadequate oxygen and/or carbon dioxide levels in the blood

Physical activity

Involves early restoration of walking and muscle strength to optimise function

Respiratory therapy

Typically guided by a physiotherapist to manage breathlessness and clear mucus from the lungs

Allied health therapy

Input from professionals such as dieticians, occupational therapists and social workers to optimise recovery and discharge planning

Role of the healthcare team

Hospitals are dynamic places that aim to deliver the best care for people with COPD via a large multi-disciplinary team. This includes a range of medical, nursing and allied health professionals as well as people involved in patient services and administration. In order to optimise your care experience, it is helpful to have a clear understanding of the roles of some of these professionals.

Click on the boxes below to learn more about your healthcare team.

Prognosis after flare-ups of COPD

Flare-ups of COPD are serious events associated with reductions in lung function, quality of life, muscle strength and physical activity levels. Recovery can be slow or sub-optimal if no action is taken. They also increase the risk of further flare-ups, readmissions and premature death. The greatest risk for experiencing a COPD flare-up is a history of a past COPD flare-up (particularly in the last year).

Strategies that may help to prevent flare-ups include: 

  1. Using your COPD Action Plan developed with your GP / lung specialist.
  2. Familiarising yourself with your symptom pattern so you can identify early signs of becoming unwell. 
  3. Learning about your triggers (e.g. chest infections, heart failure, exposure to tough weather and pollutants, psychosocial stressors).
  4. Having up-to-date immunisations for flu and pneumonia.
  5. Being diligent with hand hygiene and distancing from people with colds and flu. 
  6. Taking medications consistently and correctly including correctly using your inhalers.
  7. Keep as physically well as possible by ensuring a healthy diet, exercise and sleep habits. 
  8. Optimise your recovery from the last flare-up.

References