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New Guidance Launched to Help Combat Malnutrition in Patients with COPD

A new practical 'Managing Malnutrition in COPD' has been launched to assists healthcare professionals in identifying and managing people with COPD who are at risk of disease-related malnutrition. The guidance includes a pathway for the appropriate use of Oral Nutritional Supplements (ONS) to support community healthcare professionals and has been developed by a multi-professional panel with an interest in malnutrition in COPD and is endorsed by ten key professional and patient organisations.

Three complementary colour coded patient leaflets (green - low risk, yellow - medium risk and red - high risk) containing dietary advice, advice on eating and physical activity and tips on coping with common symptoms of COPD including dry mouth, taste changes and shortness of breath have also been developed.  In addition the red (high risk) leaflet includes advice for patients on incorporating ONS into their diet.

"ARNS has been delighted to be involved in the development of these guidelines and is pleased that we have engaged with the multi-professional team to ensure that we are offering continuity of nutritional care for patients" says Matthew Hodson, Chair of the Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists (ARNS). "It is estimated that 1 in 5 patients with COPD will be at risk of malnutrition and identifying and managing it are key to better outcomes and quality of life for patients.  I think that nurses and other healthcare professionals involved in the treatment of patients with COPD will find the management pathway and the pathway for using oral nutritional supplements invaluable in assisting them in identifying and managing this treatable condition."

"Patients with COPD who experience weight loss and are of a low body weight will have a poorer prognosis and an increased risk of mortality.  Malnourished patients have an increased risk of acute exacerbations, hospital readmission and poor quality of life" says Dr Elizabeth Weekes, Consultant Dietitian, NIHR Clinical Lecturer and the British Dietetic Association's Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition Group (PENG) representative on the 'Managing Malnutrition in COPD' expert panel.  "It is common for stable COPD patients to consume close to the recommended daily amounts for both energy and protein while at home however their nutritional intake is often compromised during acute exacerbations.  Dietary advice to optimise oral intake is vital for these patients and for those with a low BMI NICE recommends that the diet is supplemented with oral nutritional supplements (ONS).  This guidance helps healthcare professionals to identify individuals at risk of malnutrition and assists them in implementing an appropriate nutritional care plan.  The pathway emphasises the importance of regular monitoring by healthcare professionals once a care plan is in place to ensure patients meet their nutritional goals."

Free copies of the guidance and supporting materials can be downloaded for free from the COPD pages of this website.

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