, Volume 24, Issue 7, pp 555-572
Date: 01 Sep 2012

Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Bronchitis in Elderly Patients

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Chronic bronchitis (CB) is a disorder that is characterised by chronic mucus production. This disorder is called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) when airflow obstruction is present. The majority of patients with COPD, which often goes undiagnosed or inadequately treated in the elderly, have symptoms consistent with CB. The clinical course of CB is usually punctuated by periodic acute exacerbations linked to infections caused by viral and typical or atypical bacterial pathogens. Acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis (AECB) often lead to a decline in lung function and poor quality of life in association with increased risk of mortality and a significant economic impact on the healthcare system and society because of the direct costs of hospitalisations. In elderly individuals with COPD, co-morbidities play a vital role as determinants of health status and prognosis. Failure to eradicate infecting pathogens contributes to persistence of infection and inflammation that requires repeated courses of therapy and hospitalisation. Stratifying patients with AECB according to symptoms, degree of pulmonary function impairment and risk factors for poor outcome can help clinicians choose empirical antimicrobial chemotherapy regimens that are most likely to result in treatment success. Failure to cover likely pathogens associated with episodes of AECB can lead to lengthy hospital admissions and significant declines in functional status for elderly patients. Fluoroquinolones may provide the best therapeutic option for elderly patients with COPD who have complicated underlying CB but who are sufficiently stable to be treated in the outpatient setting. Optimised treatment for stable outpatients with CB may diminish the frequency of AECB, and effective antimicrobial therapy for AECB episodes can significantly diminish healthcare costs and maintain quality of life in the elderly patient.