COPD Diagnoses Could Be Hastened by New Tool

Many individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are only diagnosed after they experience late-stage exacerbations, but a new tool could hasten the process of diagnosing cases of COPD.

For at least one-third of Americans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) receive late-stage diagnoses after they experience disease exacerbations that eliminate the possibility of an intervention.

However, a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health and a national team of public health experts have developed a tool to hasten the process of diagnosing cases of COPD patients.

“Undiagnosed and untreated COPD can lead to detriments in quality of life, and basically people start doing less because they have difficulty breathing,” David Mannino, MD, FCCP, said in a statement. “Many people attribute this difficulty of breathing to just getting older when, in fact, they may have a disease that is potentially treatable.”

Dr Mannino reported findings of a study examining the 5-step diagnostic tool at the meeting of the European Respiratory Society. A 3-year trial tested the effectiveness of a patient questionnaire posing 5 “yes” or “no” questions related to the patient’s lifestyle, as well as 2 common methods for diagnosing COPD: a peak flow examination and spirometry.

Overall, the study found that the questionnaire paired with peak flow examination was the most effective diagnostic approach. Previous screening methods to diagnose COPD relied on the smoking history of the patient, as well as patient cough and sputum.

Not only could the tool help health providers diagnose COPD in mere seconds, but it could help patients find out if they suffer from COPD symptoms before a visit with the doctor.

Dr Mannino pointed out that in Kentucky not only is there a correlation between high rates of smoking and high rates of COPD, but residents are at a high risk of COPD because of other factors, such as coal mining, environmental dust, and poverty. Next, the researchers will test the effectiveness of the 5-question tool in different populations.

“What we would like to see is that this tool be used certainly in primary care practices,” Dr Mannino said. “There is the potential that this is something that could be used by individuals to screen themselves and sort of give them something to talk about with their physician.”