Simple test can predict the risk of hospitalisation in COPD

A summary of research published in the journal PLOS One

A simple test called the “sit-to stand” test could be used to help predict the risk of someone needing hospital treatment for a flare up of COPD symptoms. The test measures how quickly someone stands up and sits down from a chair 5 times in a row.

Flare ups, also known as exacerbations, often result in emergency visits to hospital for people with COPD. Being better able to predict who may be at risk of this happening would allow healthcare providers to work closely with these patients to reduce the risk.

Currently, a test – which includes measuring how far someone can walk in 6 minutes – is used to assess the risk of COPD exacerbations. It can be difficult to perform this test as it requires enough space to walk without interruptions for the 6 minutes. This new study aimed to look at whether there are any simpler and quicker tests that would predict the risk of COPD exacerbations.

What did the study look at?

This study included information collected from 714 people with COPD. They looked at measurements from different tests including:

  • the 6-minute walking test;
  • a group of tests referred to as the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB). This included three different tests – a walking speed test, a balance test and the sit-to-stand test.

The study also monitored whether the people spent any time in hospital and if they did, how long they were admitted for.  

What do the results show?

The results found that the sit-to-stand test could effectively predict the risk of people being hospitalised with a flare up of COPD symptoms. They found that the full SPPB test, and the sit-to-stand test on its own, were almost as effective as the 6-minute walking test to predict the risk of hospitalisation for COPD exacerbation. The SPPB test and the sit-to-stand test performed as well as the 6-minute walking test in predicting the length of hospital stay for these people as well.

Why is this important?

This study has shown that there is a quick and effective test that can be performed to assess the risk of hospitalisation for people with COPD. The sit-to-stand test can be used instead of the 6-minute walking test, which can be difficult to do in some settings. The sit-to-stand test can be performed with only a stop-watch and a chair, and takes less than 5 minutes. The authors hope this alternative can be used to help healthcare providers more easily understand someone’s risk of hospitalisation and work with them to prevent them from having to go to hospital.

Read the original research paper:

Title: Risk assessment for hospital admission in patients with COPD; a multi-centre UK prospective observational study

Read a summary from the National Institute for Health Research: