An exacerbation of COPD can be defined as:

“an acute worsening of respiratory symptoms that result in additional therapy” 1

Exacerbations have substantial detrimental effects on patients and are associated with impairment of quality of life, worsening of symptoms and lung function that may take several weeks to resolve, accelerated decline in lung function, significant mortality, and high socioeconomic costs.1 Figure 5 illustrates the possible triggers and effects of exacerbations in patients with COPD.20

Exacerbation triggers and effects.

Figure 5. Exacerbation triggers and effects20

The long-term prognosis following admittance to hospital following a COPD exacerbation is poor: five-year mortality rate is approximately 50%.1