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Comparison of early warning scores in patients with COPD exacerbation: DECAF and NEWS score

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Carlos EchevarriaORCiD, Dr John Steer, Professor Stephen BourkeORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.Background: The National Early Warning Score 2 (NEWS2) includes two oxygen saturation scales; the second adjusts target saturations to 88%-92% for those with hypercapnic respiratory failure. Using this second scale in all patients with COPD exacerbation (€ NEWS2All COPD') would simplify practice, but the impact on alert frequency and prognostic performance is unknown. Admission NEWS2 score has not been compared with DECAF (dyspnoea, eosinopenia, consolidation, acidaemia, atrial fibrillation) for inpatient mortality prediction. Methods: NEWS, NEWS2 and NEWS2All COPD and DECAF were calculated at admission in 2645 patients with COPD exacerbation attending consecutively to one of six UK hospitals, all of whom met spirometry criteria for COPD. Alert frequency and appropriateness were assessed for all NEWS iterations. Prognostic performance was compared using the area under the receiver operating characteristic (AUROC) curve. Missing data were imputed using multiple imputation. Findings: Compared with NEWS, NEWS2 reclassified 3.1% patients as not requiring review by a senior clinician (score≥5). NEWS2All COPD reduced alerts by 12.6%, or 16.1% if scoring for injudicious use of oxygen was exempted. Mortality was low in reclassified patients, with no patients dying the same day as being identified as low risk. NEWS2All COPD was a better prognostic score than NEWS (AUROC 0.72 vs 0.65, p<0.001), with similar performance to NEWS2 (AUROC 0.72 vs 0.70, p=0.090). DECAF was superior to all scores (validation cohort AUROC 0.82) and offered a more clinically useful range of risk stratification (DECAF=1.2%-25.5%; NEWS2=3.5%-15.4%). Conclusion: NEWS2All COPD safely reduces the alert frequency compared with NEWS2. DECAF offers superior prognostic performance to guide clinical decision-making on admission, but does not replace repeated measures of NEWS2 during hospitalisation to detect the deteriorating patient.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Echevarria C, Steer J, Bourke SC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Thorax

Year: 2019

Volume: 74

Issue: 10

Pages: 941-946

Print publication date: 12/09/2019

Online publication date: 06/08/2019

Acceptance date: 02/07/2019

Date deposited: 28/08/2019

ISSN (print): 0040-6376

ISSN (electronic): 1468-3296

Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2019-213470


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