Underdiagnosis and undertreatment of COPD in primary care settings

Authors


Masakazu Ichinose, Third Department of Internal Medicine, Wakayama Medical University, 811-1 Kimiidera, Wakayama 641-0012, Japan. Email: masakazu@wakayama-med.ac.jp

Abstract

Objective:  The aim of this study was to improve the detection of COPD in a primary care setting and to evaluate the subsequent management of these patients by general practitioners.

Methodology:  A two-step protocol was followed: patients were screened for airway obstruction and their subsequent management status reviewed. Screening spirometry was performed in 56 primary care settings (23 hospitals and 33 general practices). Inclusion criteria for screening subjects were: (i) ≥40-year-old smokers (both current and past smokers) and/or (ii) ≥40-year-old patients with respiratory symptoms of chronic cough and sputum. Patients with a previously diagnosed respiratory disease were excluded. In the second part of the study, the diagnosis and the subsequent management status of subjects with airway obstructive changes (FEV1/FVC <70%) were sought from their physician using a questionnaire 2 months after detection.

Results:  A total of 1168 patients were screened, with 128 not analysed because of incomplete data, leaving 1040 patients. The percentages of current smokers, ex-smokers, and non-smokers among all analysed subjects were 41.7%, 29.8% and 28.5%, respectively. Airway obstructive changes (FEV1/FVC <70%) were found in 27.0% (n = 281) of all analysed subjects. Questionnaires for 194 subjects (with positive screening tests) were sent back by the participating physicians. Eighty-one per cent (n = 158) of the 194 subjects had COPD and 13.4% (n = 26) had asthma. Sixty-one per cent (n = 96) of the subjects with moderate to severe COPD according to international guidelines (FEV1 <80% predicted). However, 31.3% (n = 30) did not receive any clinical intervention (smoking cessation advice and/or drug administration).

Conclusions:  Screening spirometry in outpatients in a primary care setting can identify many COPD patients. However, COPD management appears to be poor in Japan.

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