Jun 19
Increase in ‘lung-attack’ hospitalisations triggers clinical winter warning

Rylstone HealthOne to conduct free lung tests – Thursday 28 June

A common, serious and often under diagnosed lung condition is expected to place nearly 6,000 people in New South Wales in hospital this winter, with many thousands more across the country visiting emergency departments and general practitioners as their condition flares-up.1,3

A new analysis released by The Australian Lung Foundation reveals that approximately a third of hospitalisations caused by Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in Australia will occur in the colder months of June, July and August 2,3 – a 40 per cent increase on the annual average for a three month period.

Often referred to as ‘chronic bronchitis’ and ‘emphysema’, COPD affects one-in-five Australians over 40 years of age.However, as many as half of these people are unaware they have the condition despite experiencing symptoms that impact their daily lives.1,4

The Lung Foundation’s winter warning forms part of a concerted campaign to increase early diagnosis of COPD so that steps can be taken as early as possible to slow the progression of the disease. Australians at greatest risk of COPD are urged to take action and protect themselves during ‘clinical winter’ – a term used to describe the influx of patients to health facilities during the colder months.

Rylstone HealthOne will be performing free Lung Testing on Thursday 28th June from 1.30pm - 3.30pm in support of the Lung Foundation’s campaign to raise awareness of COPD. For more information phone 6357 8150.

“Thousands of Australians ignore the real signs of COPD – such as having a productive cough, experiencing shortness of breath on exertionor getting bronchitis – and place themselves at risk of severe lung attacks,” said Lung Foundation National Council member Professor Christine Jenkins, who is also Head of the Airways Group, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.

“Too many “at risk” Australians have never had their lungs tested, many people have undiagnosed COPD and many will end up in hospital this winter,” said Professor Jenkins. “A good proportion of these are preventable with optimal COPD management.”

The Lung Foundation encourages Australians who are smokers or ex-smokers and/or experience symptoms including shortness of breath, and/or persistent cough or chest infections to take a minute to complete The Lung Foundation’s simple Lung Health Checklist and if necessary see a doctor for a lung function test.

“Completing a quick and non-invasive lung test could alert people to their condition and allow them to start taking the important steps to avoiding a full-blown lung attack caused by obstructed airways,” said Professor Jenkins.

COPD is a progressive and irreversible lung condition associated with a destruction of lung tissue and narrowing of the airways.4,5 Symptoms of a flare-up or attack include a sudden increase in breathlessness, coughing, phlegm or mucus production and/or change in colour of mucus.1,6

“For many the first time they receive a diagnosis of COPD will be after hospital admission as a result of a severe flare-up of their condition,” Professor Jenkins said.

Once a person has had a COPD flare-up, serious enough to warrant hospitalisation, they may have lost 50 per cent of their lung function, have a 23 per cent risk of dying in the following 12 months7 and remain at heightened risk of a subsequent flare-up for up to two months.8

“Early diagnosis combined with appropriate management in the early stages of the disease can slow disease progression, improve quality of life and keep people out of hospital,” said William Darbishire, Chief Executive Officer of The Australian Lung Foundation.

“Recognising the symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is the first step in the diagnosis process,” said Mr Darbishire. “While there is no cure for COPD the condition is preventable and treatable.”

Professor Jenkins and Mr Darbishire reinforce the need for Australians who have already been diagnosed with COPD to take preventative steps to protect themselves and reduce their risk of hospitalisation this winter – including having their annual flu shot and maintaining good hand hygiene.

For more information or to arrange an interview, with Professor Christine Jenkins and/or a person who is living with COPD,  please contact Mairead McLaughlin at Ethical Strategies on (02) 8904 7340 / 0405 951 572.



About the Australian Lung Foundation
The Australian Lung Foundation is leading the fight to promote better lung health for all Australians. The Lung Foundation is able to provide advice, support and assistance to Australians with COPD. Patients and their carers can call the Lung Foundations Information and Support Centre on 1800 654 301.

The Lung Health Checklist allows people to understand their lung health and share the results with their healthcare provider if required. After completing the Checklist users receive a customised response providing advice on action to be taken for their lung health. The Checklist can be viewed at www.lungfoundation.com.au.

About the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research

The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research is one of Australia’s leading respiratory and sleep research organisations. Our aim is to foster, develop and promote research into the fields of respiratory and sleep medicine. 

With a world-class network of specialised researchers, the Woolcock is one of the top six such institutes world-wide.


1. Buist AS, McBurnie MA, Vollmer WM et al. International variation in the prevalence of COPD (The BOLD Study): a population-based prevalence study. Lancet 1 September 2007; 370: 741-750

2. State-based health department data (2011 NSW, QLD, SA, ACT, VIC; 2010 WA). COPD Hospitalisations (ICD-10 codes J44.0, J44.1, J44.8 and J44.9)(Accessed May 2012).

3. Jenkins CR, Celli B, Anderson JAet al.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%22Calverley%20PM%22%5BAuthor%5DSeasonality and determinants of moderate and severe

COPD exacerbations in the TORCH study. Eur Respir J.2012 Jan;39(1):38-45.

4.McKenzie DK, Abramson M, Crockett AJ, Glasgow N, Jenkins S, McDonald C, Wood-Baker R, Frith PA on behalf of The Australian Lung Foundation. The COPD-X Plan: Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for the management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 2011.

5. Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring 2011. Asthma in Australia 2011. AIHW Asthma Series no.  Cat.no. ACM 22. Canberra: AIHW.

6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2008. Australia's Health 2008. Cat. no. AUS 99. Canberra: AIHW.

7. Kim S, Clark S, Camargo CA Jr. Mortality after an emergency department visit for exacerbation of chronic pulmonary disease. COPD. 2006;3:75-81.

8. Perera WR, Hurst JR, Wilkinson TM, et al. Inflammatory changes, recovery and recurrence at COPD exacerbation. Eur Respir J 2007;29:527-534