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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


imgAt Mater Health Services we understand that being in hospital can be a very stressful experience. This booklet aims to alleviate some of your concerns in keeping with our Mission to offer compassionate, quality care that promotes dignity while responding to patients’ needs. It explains briefly the events that may occur during your visit and the things to expect when you are discharged from the hospital.

It is, however, only a guideline as each person may require differing treatments.

If you have any questions about your treatment please ask your doctor or nurse. Our pastoral care team offers a caring support network to all patients. The dedicated members of this team will visit you during your stay and are available at your request todiscuss any anxieties or problems that you may have.

Our expectations

Our expectation is that your state of health will be as it was prior to this onset of your illness.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung condition characterised by damage to the airways and the lungs, almost always as a result of cigarette smoking.
  • ”Emphysema” is not necessarily the same thing as COPD. However, ”emphysema” is usually part of the lung damage associated with COPD.
  • While the damage already caused by cigarette smoking cannot be reversed, smoking cessation will prevent further damage to the lungs and airways.

Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

  • Most of the symptoms of COPD are the result of obstruction of airways within the lungs. It is somewhat similar to asthma, except that this obstruction can usually be completely reversed in asthma, while it is usually not reversible in COPD.
  • Shortness of breath is the main symptom that results from this airway obstruction.
  • COPD may also be associated with wheeze, cough, sputum (‘phlegm’) production, and a tendency to develop chest infections with any cold or chest infection, particularly during winter months.

Treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Treatments for COPD include stopping smoking, use of inhalers that help to open the airways (“bronchodilators”), inhalers that reduce the amount of inflammation within the airways (“inhaled corticosteroids”), pulmonary rehabilitation programs to improve exercise capacity and antibiotic and corticosteroid tablets for ”flare-ups” or chest infections.

The most important treatment for COPD is stopping smoking. Notify the staff if you would like some information and/or support to quit smoking.

  • Patients with COPD must receive vaccination against influenza (“fluvax”) each year, and against pneumococcus (the ”pneumonia vaccine” or ”pneumovax”) every five years.
  • Inhaled bronchodilators, either short-acting (e.g. salbutamol or ”ventolin”, terbutaline or bricanyl”, ipratropium or ”atrovent”) or long-acting (e.g. salmeterol or ”serevent”, eformoterol or ”oxis”, tiotropium or ”spiriva”), may reduce symptoms of breathlessness.
  • In severe cases, inhaled corticosteroids (including fluticasone/”flixotide” or ”seretide”, budesonide/”pulmicort” or ”symbicort”, beclomethasone/”Qvar”) reduce the severity and frequency of COPD ”flare-ups”.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation programs improve breathlessness, exercise capacity and quality of life in patients with COPD
  • The pulmonary rehabilitation program involves at least twice weekly visits to the hospital physiotherapy department for six to eight weeks. Patients undertake a gentle, graded exercise programme, receive education about COPD and training in anxiety management and breathing control.
  • ALL patients with COPD who are troubled by breathlessness should undertake a pulmonary rehabilitation programme.

Admission to hospital

  • On admission the staff will orientate you to your room and through the ward surroundings.
  • Your Admitting Nurse will apply an identification arm band, which stays on for the duration of your admission.
  • Your Admitting Nurse will ask about your medical/surgical history and any particular needs you may have while in hospital. It is important for you to provide the staff with detailed and accurate information, so that they can properly plan and approach your treatment.

Hospitalisation phase

  • Your vital signs (eg temperature, pulse, respiratory rate) will be monitored regularly.
  • You will be given any necessary treatments and medications as ordered by the doctors.
  • Your oxygen levels will be monitored and you will receive oxygen therapy as required to maintain safe levels.
  • You may have an intravenous drip to provide fluids and/or medications.
  • You will be encouraged to be as active as possible.

Transition to home

You will be ready to go home when the doctor considers you ready and/or you have achieved the following recovery milestones:

  • You are breathing comfortably at rest.
  • You are drinking and/or eating adequate amounts without respiratory distress.
  • You are able to clear secretions effectively as you were prior to coming to hospital.
  • You are sleeping without respiratory distress.
  • Your airflow measurements have improved from admission.
  • You are maintaining a satisfactory level of independence with your own care.

Care at home


  • The ”treatment” that will have the most effect upon lung damage in COPD is to quit smoking.
  • It is never too late to stop smoking
  • Maintaining exercise is the key to being as healthy as possible – the damage done to the lungs from cigarette smoking is not reversible and therefore COPD subjects need to remain fit and active to make their lungs work as efficiently as possible.
  • All people with COPD who are significantly breathless should undertake a pulmonary rehabilitation program.

To improve lung health:

  • stop smoking
  • get regular exercise
  • start a pulmonary rehabilitation program
  • have your flu shot every year.

You will need to seek medical attention when:

  • your usual medications are not relieving your shortness of breath
  • your shortness of breath is increasing with your normal daily activities
  • you note new or increased ankle swelling
  • you note a change in sputum (phlegm) production

Please bring this booklet to any follow up medical appointments you may have. This booklet will assist the GP/Doctor in knowing what care has been provided for you, while at Mater Hospital.

Mater Hospital Brisbane

Mater Hospital Brisbane is one of Brisbane’s leading health facilities for non-insured patients. It is built on a foundation of clinical excellence and a commitment to safe, compassionate care, that is:

  • quality focussed
  • technologically advanced
  • customised to patients’ needs and lifestyles.

Mater Hospital Brisbane provides a wide range of surgical, medical and cancer services to noninsured patients. It features a 24-hour emergency department, intensive and coronary care units, day surgery, day oncology, day respite and busy medical, cancer and surgical units.

The hospital’s Division of Medicine offers specialist services in respiratory medicine, endocrinology, gastroenterology, nephrology, cardiology, infectious diseases, dermatology, rheumatology, general surgery and medicine.

Modern facilities accommodate inpatients, outpatients, and day-only patients. General surgery is complemented by recognised surgical expertise in women’s health, orthopaedics, urology, ophthalmology, vascular surgery, oral/faciomaxillary surgery, colorectal surgery, plastic surgery, ear/nose and throat surgery and dermatology.

While in hospital, patients also have access to a range of allied health practitioners (dietitians, physiotherapists, etc.), pharmacy, hairdressing, and chaplaincy services. For more information about Mater Hospital Brisbane please telephone 07 3163 8111.

Visiting Hours

11 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 8 pm (patient rest period 1 pm to 3pm)

Our Mission

In the spirit of the Sisters of Mercy, Mater Health Services offers compassionate service to the sick and needy, promotes an holistic approach to health care in response to changing community needs and fosters high standards in health-related education and research. Following the example of Christ the healer, we commit ourselves to offering these services to all without discrimination.

Our Values

Mercy: the spirit of responding to one another
Dignity: the spirit of humanity, respecting the worth of each person
Care: the spirit of compassion
Commitment: the spirit of integrity
Quality: the spirit of professionalism

Contact details

Mater Hospital Brisbane
Raymond Terrace
South Brisbane 4101

Phone 07 3163 8111

© 2010 Mater Misericordiae Ltd. ACN 096 708 922.

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-420010
Last modified 09/8/2017.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 19/7/2014
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Mercy. Dignity. Care. Commitment. Quality


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