Impact of a Positive Viral Polymerase Chain Reaction on Outcomes of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Exacerbations

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Introduction: More than 15 million adults in the USA have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) places a high burden on the healthcare system. Many hospital admissions are due to an exacerbation, which is suspected to be from a viral cause. The purpose of this analysis was to compare the outcomes of patients with a positive and negative respiratory virus panel who were admitted to the hospital with COPD exacerbations.

Methods: This retrospective cohort study was conducted in the Geisinger Healthcare System. The dataset included 2729 patient encounters between 1 January 2006 and 30 November 2017. Hospital length of stay was calculated as the discrete number of calendar days a patient was in the hospital. Patient encounters with a positive and negative respiratory virus panel were compared using Pearson's chi-square or Fisher's exact test for categorical variables and Student's t-test or Wilcoxon rank-sum tests for continuous variables.

Results: There were 1626 patients with a total of 2729 chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation encounters. Nineteen percent of those encounters (n = 524) had a respiratory virus panel performed during their admission. Among these encounters, 161 (30.7%) had positive results, and 363 (69.3%) had negative results. For encounters with the respiratory virus panel, the mean age was 64.5, 59.5% were female, 98.9% were white, and the mean body mass index was 26.6. Those with a negative respiratory virus panel had a higher median white blood cell count (11.1 vs. 9.9, p = 0.0076). There were no other statistically significant differences in characteristics between the two groups. Respiratory virus panel positive patients had a statistically significant longer hospital length of stay. There were no significant differences with respect to being on mechanical ventilation or ventilation-free days.

Conclusion: This study shows that a positive respiratory virus panel is associated with increased length of hospital stay. Early diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation patients with positive viral panel would help identify patients with a longer length of stay.

Keywords: COPD; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; length of stay; respiratory virus panel.