Narrative: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a term that encompasses both patients diagnosed with chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is an obstructive lung disease in many cases caused by years of tobacco smoking. It is thought that patients with COPD ‘exacerbation’ (increased shortness of breath or change in their chronic cough and sputum) may benefit from steroids, presumably by reducing the inflammatory response that accompanies the exacerbation.
Benefits: 10 studies contributed data for this Cochrane analysis, representing 1051 patients. There was no statistically significant difference in the mortality of subjects who received systemic steroids compared to placebo. In regards to treatment failure, the review found a NNT of 10 (% reduction). Interestingly, no benefit was found in analysis of studies with steroids for less than 72 hours. The reductions in treatment failure were recorded from studies including both admitted and outpatient/Emergency Department patients.
Harms: Corticosteroids can cause multiple side effects, and some studies evaluated harms, though this was inconsistent across studies. When harms were pooled, there was an absolute risk increase of % for patients receiving steroids (NNH = 7) though this includes some harms that are not patient-oriented (high blood sugars) as well as some that are patient-oriented (diarrhea).
Testing for antibody to double-stranded DNA antigen (anti-dsDNA) and antibody to Sm nuclear antigen (anti-Sm) may be helpful in patients who have a positive ANA test but do not meet full criteria for the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus. AntidsDNA and anti-Sm, particularly in high titers, have high specificity for systemic lupus erythematosus, although their sensitivity is low. Therefore, a positive result helps to establish the diagnosis of the disease, but a negative result does not rule it out. 46 The CAP guideline recommends against testing for other autoantibodies in ANA-positive patients, because there is little evidence that these tests are of benefit. 46
In addition to infectious colitis, other gastrointestinal diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, are associated with erythema nodosum. Erythema nodosum with abdominal pain and diarrhea may reflect acute flare-ups. Firm control of colitis may prevent further erythema nodosum; suppression of erythema nodosum in the patient may be considered an indicator for disease management. 22 As many as 50 percent of patients with Behçet's syndrome have associated erythema nodosum. 4 The biopsy-proven coexistence of Sweet's syndrome and erythema nodosum has been documented. 23