Questions Not Focused on Smoking History Can Help Identify COPD

A study presented at the European Respiratory Society's International Congress showed there are other factors to look at during COPD diagnosis beyond smoking.

There is a novel approach for identifying chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a study presented at the European Respiratory Society’s International Congress in September.

Researchers in the United States aimed to create a tool in order to speed up diagnosis times for COPD, and reveal COPD before serious exacerbations and further loss of function occurs. They believe that COPD is under diagnosed, partly due to subpar screening tools that rely on smoking history and patient reported cough and sputum. The researchers used the tool on 186 people with clinically significant COPD and 160 people with mild or no COPD. All of the patients completed questionnaires and had their lung function measured using peak flow and spirometry.

The set of five “yes or no” questions were able to identify whether a person had moderate or severe COPD, or if people were at risk for COPD exacerbations. The questions asked about breathing, how easily a person got tired, and acute respiratory illness.

“The results of our study indicate that a five item questionnaire of carefully selected questions can help identify people before they have serious complications of COPD,” presenting author Professor David Mannino explained in a press release. “This is also the first time a questionnaire has included assessment of exacerbation risk.”

Mannino added that the questionnaires did not ask about the participants’ smoking, cough, or sputum, as most other COPD identification methods typically do.

“Our study also found that when clinicians include peak flow measurements in addition to the questionnaire, the identification of people with COPD is even more accurate,” Mannino concluded.

The researchers added that in the future, they hope their questionnaire can improve how physicians find COPD, in addition to pinpointing patients with more severe disease and those at risk for exacerbations, so they can be treated.