According to a study published in Chest, only 1.7% of end-stage COPD patients admitted to the hospital for exacerbation from 2006-2012 were referred to palliative care.

While the number of palliative care referrals more than quadrupled from 2006 (0.45%) to 2012 (2.56%), researchers say the treatment is underutilized. According to the analysis, patients receiving palliative care consultations compared to those who did not were older (75.0 years vs 70.6 years), had longer hospitalizations (4.9 days vs 3.5 days) and were more likely to die in hospital (32.1% vs 1.5%).

In addition, researchers found race “was significantly associated with referral to palliative care.” White patients were referred more often than minorities, researchers said.

“Like patients with end-stage cancers, this is a population with huge symptom burden and a short life expectancy,” lead author Barret Rush, MD, told MedPage Today. “The opportunity to improve quality of life in these patients is enormous, but palliative care is an underrecognized and underutilized therapy in patients with COPD.”