To examine the importance of fatigue as a clinical indicator in COPD, by analysing its relationship to COPD severity and ability to predict risk of hospitalisation; and by comparing the intensity of fatigue in stable COPD patients with levels of fatigue reported by patients with other chronic conditions.

100 consecutive patients attending assessment clinics before pulmonary rehabilitation. Both questionnaire and physiologic data were collected. Partial correlations, multiple linear regressions, and Cox proportional hazard models/negative binomial regressions were used to address the research questions.

A significant relationship existed between fatigue and COPD severity. Fatigue reports predicted future hospitalisation risk. Compared to the lowest third of patients, the third of patients reporting the most intense fatigue showed a 10 fold increase in risk of hospitalisation (fatigue experiences HR: 10.2 95%CI 2.66–38.86; fatigue impacts HR: 10.7 95%CI 2.76–41.65). Our COPD sample reported fatigue scores of similar intensity to colorectal cancer patients and HIV-positive patients.

While fatigue is significantly related to COPD functional severity, fatigue data also capture independent information. Fatigue reports can contribute to predictions of hospitalisation risk.