COPD is a term to describe conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It is characterized by obstruction of airflow and gradual loss of lung function that cannot be corrected. The disease is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
A test known as spirometry may significantly help physicians diagnose patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease earlier.Researchers compared an office spirometry test and a screening questionnaire to determine which could more effectively detect early stages of COPD.Doctors screened more than 3,000 patients over 12 weeks. More than 725 patients who took the screening questionnaire reported having signs or symptoms of COPD. Researchers tested 703 of the patients with symptoms and 10 percent of the patients without symptoms.
Results show about 125 of the 703 patients who reported symptoms of COPD actually had airflow obstruction. The spirometry test also detected about 90 patients who did not report experiencing any symptoms. Researchers say the screening questionnaire alone was insufficient because it failed to identify about 42 percent of all COPD cases. They say without spirometry, nearly half of patients with COPD would have remained undiagnosed.
Thus researchers conclude that office spirometry nearly doubled the number of known cases of COPD in the target patient population, which reinforces the need for spirometry testing in general physician practice.