Impact of COVID-19 lockdown on the incidence and mortality of acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease : national interrupted time series analyses for Scotland and Wales

Alsallakh, Mohammad A. and Sivakumaran, Shanya and Kennedy, Sharon and Vasileiou, Eleftheria and Lyons, Ronan A. and Robertson, Chris and Sheikh, Aziz and Davies, Gwyneth A. and Simpson, Colin R. and McMenamin, Jim and Ritchie, Lewis D. and Woolhouse, Mark and Stagg, Helen R. and Marques, Diogo and Murray, Josie and Stock, Sarah and Wood, Rachael and McCowan, Colin and Agrawal, Utkarsh and Docherty, Annemarie B. and Mulholland, Rachel H. and Moore, Emily and Marple, James and Hammersley, Vicky (2021) Impact of COVID-19 lockdown on the incidence and mortality of acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease : national interrupted time series analyses for Scotland and Wales. BMC Medicine, 19. 124. ISSN 1741-7015

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    Abstract

    Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing national lockdowns have dramatically changed the healthcare landscape. The pandemic's impact on people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) remains poorly understood. We hypothesised that the UK-wide lockdown restrictions were associated with reductions in severe COPD exacerbations. We provide the first national level analyses of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and first lockdown on severe COPD exacerbations resulting in emergency hospital admissions and/or leading to death as well as those recorded in primary care or emergency departments. Methods: Using data from Public Health Scotland and the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage Databank in Wales, we accessed weekly counts of emergency hospital admissions and deaths due to COPD over the first 30 weeks of 2020 and compared these to the national averages over the preceding 5 years. For both Scotland and Wales, we undertook interrupted time-series analyses to model the impact of instigating lockdown on these outcomes. Using fixed-effect meta-analysis, we derived pooled estimates of the overall changes in trends across the two nations. Results: Lockdown was associated with 48% pooled reduction in emergency admissions for COPD in both countries (incidence rate ratio, IRR 0.52, 95% CI 0.46 to 0.58), relative to the 5-year averages. There was no statistically significant change in deaths due to COPD (pooled IRR 1.08, 95% CI 0.87 to 1.33). In Wales, lockdown was associated with 39% reduction in primary care consultations for acute exacerbation of COPD (IRR 0.61, 95% CI 0.52 to 0.71) and 46% reduction in COPD-related emergency department attendances (IRR 0.54, 95% CI 0.36 to 0.81). Conclusions: The UK-wide lockdown was associated with the most substantial reductions in COPD exacerbations ever seen across Scotland and Wales, with no corresponding increase in COPD deaths. This may have resulted from reduced transmission of respiratory infections, reduced exposure to outdoor air pollution and/or improved COPD self-management.