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Malnutrition: The forgotten factor in COPD management?

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Patients with COPD may experience their condition Patients with COPD may experience their condition being aggravated by poor nutrition and increasingly complex needs

Malnutrition affects up to 35% of individuals with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and is associated with poor patient outcomes and significant costs to the NHS. NICE guidelines provide recommendations for managing malnutrition in COPD1 and more recently a multi-professional consensus guide; ‘Managing Malnutrition in COPD’2 has been launched to provide practical advice to healthcare professionals. Despite this, malnutrition continues to go under-detected and under-treated in this group.

In this article, the author describes her experience of undertaking a project to implement a pathway to manage malnourished COPD patients in general practice.

COPD and Malnutrition

Disease-related malnutrition (DRM) affects 3 million people in the UK and is estimated to cost more than £23 billion each year.3

Malnutrition in COPD may develop insidiously over several years or more acutely as a result of an exacerbation. It has been estimated that as many as 35% of inpatients with COPD and 21% of COPD outpatients are affected by malnutrition.4,5

Malnutrition has serious adverse consequences for a patient with COPD and is associated with increased healthcare costs. Consequences may include:

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