While the number of hospitalizations for COPD in the United States fluctuated within a narrow range between 2005 and 2014, in-hospital deaths decreased substantially during that same time, according to new research presented at the ATS 2017 International Conference.

The researchers analyzed data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Inpatient Sample, which captures 95% of all hospital discharges in the US. They found that there were 8,575,820 hospitalizations for COPD-related health problems between 2005-2014. During that time, those who died in the hospital declined from 24,226 to 9,090—a 62% decrease.

“This is certainly an encouraging trend,” said Khushboo Goel, MD, lead study author and a second-year internal medicine resident at the University of Arizona. “We expected to see a decline because of improvements in caring for conditions such as pneumonia, sepsis, septic shock and thromboembolic diseases associated with COPD exacerbations, but the magnitude of the decline in mortality was surprising.”

She noted that the decreasing mortality trend was true for White, Black and Hispanic patients.

Most striking, Dr. Goel said, was that each year, women accounted for most of the hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths. Women made up 57-58% of the hospitalizations and 51-55% of the in-hospital deaths.

“Other studies suggest possible explanations for the higher COPD burden women in the US have,” she said, “including the growing number of women who smoke, the increased severity of symptoms they may experience and longer life expectancy.”

The study also found that from 2005 to 2014, the average age of those hospitalized remained nearly constant at 67 years of age, the number of COPD patients treated at teaching hospitals increased from 212,346 to 371,215 and the average length of a hospital stay decreased from 5.2 days to 4.2 days.