Complications

Complications table
ComplicationTimeframeLikelihood

cor pulmonale

long termhigh

Cor pulmonale is right-sided heart failure secondary to longstanding COPD. It is caused by chronic hypoxia and subsequent vasoconstriction in pulmonary vasculature that causes pulmonary hypertension and right-sided heart failure.

Engorged neck veins, a loud P2, lower-extremity edema, and hepatomegaly are signs of cor pulmonale.

Continuous oxygen therapy is the mainstay of therapy. Judicious use of diuretics is warranted.[144]

recurrent pneumonia

variablehigh

Recurrent pneumonia is a common complication of COPD and a frequent cause of COPD exacerbation. Either viral or bacterial infections can be the cause.

Chronic lung and airway damage, inflammation, compromised ciliary function, and bacterial colonization are likely causes of increased vulnerability to infections. Use of long-term inhaled corticosteroids is also associated with increased risk of pneumonia in patients with COPD.[141][142]

Use of antibiotic therapy has shown some benefit.[143] Usual treatment time is around 7 to 14 days. Appropriate coverage for Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae is mandatory. Pneumococcal vaccination is strongly recommended in COPD patients.

depression

variablehigh

Depression is a common consequence of COPD. If any mood change occurs, a psychiatric evaluation may be necessary.

pneumothorax

variablemedium

Occurs because of lung parenchyma damage with subpleural bulla formation and rupture. Spontaneous pneumothorax is very common with chronic severe cough or chest trauma, and may be life-threatening.

High levels of suspicion are necessary for prompt diagnosis. CXR or chest CT confirms the diagnosis.com.bmj.content.model.Caption@641b19e[Figure caption and citation for the preceding image starts]: Chest CT: severe COPD changes with right pneumothoraxFrom the collection of Manoochehr Abadian Sharifabad, MD [Citation ends].

Conservative management may be sufficient in minor cases. In severe cases, chest tube insertion is necessary to prevent tension pneumothorax and hemodynamic instability. If recurrent pneumothorax occurs, then surgical interventions, such as video-assisted thoracoscopy pleurodesis or bullectomy, are warranted.

respiratory failure

variablemedium

A study of a large number of COPD patients with acute respiratory failure reported inhospital mortality of 17% to 49%.[140] Therapy includes noninvasive positive pressure ventilation and/or mechanical ventilation.

anemia

variablemedium

Anemia is more prevalent than previously thought, affecting almost 25% of COPD patients.[145] A low hematocrit indicates a poor prognosis in COPD patients receiving long-term oxygen treatment.[146]

polycythemia

variablemedium

Secondary polycythemia can develop in the presence of arterial hypoxemia, especially in continuing smokers. It can be identified by hematocrit >55%. Many times these patients require supplemental home oxygen.

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