Experience of advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Metasynthesis of qualitative research

Rebecca T. Disler, Anna Green, Tim Luckett, Phillip J. Newton, Sally Inglis, David C. Currow, Patricia M. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

122 Citations (Scopus)


Context Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a life-limiting illness. Despite best available treatments, individuals continue to experience symptom burden and have high health care utilization. Objectives To increase understanding of the experience and ongoing needs of individuals living with COPD. Methods Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Sociological s were searched for articles published between January 1990 and June 2013. Metasynthesis of qualitative data followed the principles of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. Metasyntheses are increasingly used to gain understandings of complex research questions through synthesizing data from individual qualitative studies. Descriptive and analytical themes were developed through thematic synthesis and expert panel discussion of extracted primary quotes, not the primary data themselves. Results Twenty-two studies were included. Four hundred twenty-two free codes were condensed into seven descriptive themes: better understanding of condition, breathlessness, fatigue, frailty, anxiety, social isolation, and loss of hope and maintaining meaning. These seven themes were condensed further into three analytical themes that described the experience and ongoing needs of individuals with COPD: the need for better understanding of condition, sustained symptom burden, and the unrelenting psychological impact of living with COPD. Conclusion Combining discrete qualitative studies provided a useful perspective of the experience of living with COPD over the past two decades. Further studies into the ongoing needs of individuals with COPD are unlikely to add to this well-established picture. Future research should focus on solutions through the development of interventions that address patients' ongoing needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1182-1199
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • advanced disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • experience
  • metasynthesis
  • ongoing needs
  • qualitative

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