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Health Indicator Report of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Emergency Department Visits

COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a chronic lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. It is a progressive disease, which means that the disease gets worse over time. The disease isn't passed from person to person, it is not contagious. However, COPD is a life threatening lung disease that may progressively lead to death and thus needs to be treated. The most common symptoms of COPD are breathlessness, a chronic cough that produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms. COPD develops slowly. Symptoms often worsen over time and can limit the ability to do routine activities. Severe COPD may prevent people from doing even basic activities like walking, cooking, or taking care of themselves. COPD has no cure yet and doctors don't know how to reverse the damage to the airways and lungs. However, COPD is often preventable and treatable. Treatments and lifestyle changes can help those affected feel better, stay more active, and slow the progress of the disease. Early detection of COPD is key to successful treatment. Knowing the symptoms or exposures to risk factors (see below) may lead to early diagnosis of COPD. COPD is a major cause of disability; it was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2014 and the fourth leading cause of death in New Mexico in 2016. COPD is the third leading cause of hospitalization in the United States with over 715,000 admissions in 2005. It accounts for 1.5 million ED visits annually, and the number of visits increases since the early 1990s. It has been shown that about two-thirds of ED patients with COPD symptoms are consequently admitted as inpatients to a hospital. As of 2009, 11.8 million adults aged 18+ years in the United States reported having physician-diagnosed COPD; however, it is commonly accepted that COPD is frequently underdiagnosed. There are also large racial, ethnic and socioeconomic biases in COPD prevalence. Most of the time it is diagnosed in middle-aged or older adults. It is estimated that nearly 24% of all Americans 65 years and older have COPD. In the past, COPD was more common in men; however, since 1993, the rate of admission for COPD in women has surpassed that of men, in New Mexico.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Emergency Department Visits, Age-adjusted Rate per 10,000 Population Age 25 Years and Older by County, New Mexico 2010-2016


ICD stands for International Classification of Diseases. It is a coding system maintained by the World Health Organization and the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics used to classify causes of death on death certificates and diagnoses, injury causes, and medical procedures for hospital and emergency department visits. These codes are updated every decade or so to account for advances in medical technology. The U.S. is currently using the 10th revision (ICD-10) to code causes of death. The 9th revision ICD-9-CM was used for hospital and emergency department visits when reporting for occupational related incidents until October 2015 and thereafter are supposed to use ICD-10-CM.   Data were age-adjusted by the direct method to the 2000 US standard population.

Data Sources

  • This information is provided by the Health Systems Epidemiology Program of the New Mexico Department of Health.
  • Population Estimates: University of New Mexico, Geospatial and Population Studies (GPS) Program,

Data Interpretation Issues

Currently, the ED visit dataset includes data from non-federal facilities only. Therefore, these data do not include ED visits at Veteran's Administration (VA) facilities, nor from Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities, which account for a large proportion of ED visits for New Mexico's American Indian population. In addition, these data do not include ED visits among New Mexico residents that occur out of state.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a chronic lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. A COPD Emergency Department (ED) visit is a trip to the ED by a New Mexico resident that occurs with COPD listed as the primary (first-listed) diagnosis of a New Mexico resident. A COPD diagnosis includes the ICD-9-CM codes 490-492 or 496 or 493.2* when 490-492 or 496 is present on any secondary diagnoses, and, after 10/2015, the ICD-10 codes J40-J44 for non-occupationally related incidents. Measures include: 1) the number of COPD ED visits by sex by year, 2) the number of COPD ED visits by county, 3) crude rate of COPD hospitalizations per 10,000 population by sex and age groups, 4) crude rate of COPD ED visits per 10,000 population by age groups 25-44, 45-64 and 65 and older and year, 5) crude rate of COPD ED visits by month (five year average), 6) crude rate of COPD ED visits per 10,000 population by county, 7) age-adjusted rate of COPD ED visits per 10,000 population among persons 25 and over per 10,000 population by county (adjusted by the direct method to year 2000 US standard population) and 8) age-adjusted rate of COPD ED visits among persons 25 and over per 10,000 population by year (adjusted by the direct method to year 2000 US standard population).


Number of all ED visits where COPD is the primary (first-listed) diagnosis, including those admitted as inpatients in that hospital or transferred to another hospital.


Estimated total number of New Mexico residents in a specified population over a specified time period (mid-year estimates).

How Do We Compare With the U.S.?

New Mexico and the United States have similar rates of COPD.

What Is Being Done?

Steps to be taken to reduce risk for COPD include: 1) If you are a smoker, STOP SMOKING. Quitting smoking is the single most important thing a smoker can do to live a longer and healthier life. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD and accounts for as many as 9 out of 10 COPD-related deaths. The New Mexico Department of Health's Tobacco Use Prevention and Control (TUPAC) program and its partners use a comprehensive, evidence-based, approach to reducing tobacco use. The American Lung Association also has many programs to help you quit for good. 2) If you don't smoke, don't start. Smoking causes COPD, lung cancer, heart disease and other cancers. 3) Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Make your home smokefree. You'll not only protect yourself, but your family too. Learn about your rights to a smokefree environment at work and in public places. 4) Be aware of other dangers. Take care to protect yourself against chemicals, dust and fumes in your home and at work. 5) Help fight for clean air. Work with others in your community to help clean up the air you and your family breathe.

Page Content Updated On 04/03/2018, Published on 04/03/2018
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Content updated: Tue, 3 Apr 2018 07:43:52 MDT