Purpose of review: Hospitalizations due to exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are a major burden for patient and healthcare system. Extra-pulmonary needs and resulting interventions are poorly investigated.
Recent findings: COPD induces nutritional issues, body composition changes and limits patient exercise capacity. The COPD patient journey can be accelerated through exacerbations during which disease-related detrimental factors such as systemic inflammation, hypoxia, inactivity, and glucocorticosteroid treatment converge and intensify, which acutely and often irreversibly worsens patient condition. Specific needs during exacerbations reach beyond the respiratory system, thus clinicians should comprehensively evaluate patients and identify potent and feasible metabolic and anabolic intervention targets. General and specific nutritional support appear feasible and with potential to cover for the changed bodily requirements during exacerbation. Adjunctive physical exercise or neuromuscular electrical stimulation may prevent the muscle loss.
Summary: Hospitalizations should be considered as a window of opportunity for detailed patient assessment and implementation of tailored extra-pulmonary adjunctive strategies with long-term implications. Nutritional assessment and support as well as physical exercise appear promising but should be investigated in adequately designed and conducted trials.