Breathing new life into COPD diagnosis

THE fourth-largest cause of mortality in Australia is now chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), yet a recent study estimates that 60% of patients with the disease have been misdiagnosed.

In April, researchers from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research presented their findings from the Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) study at the 2011 Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand annual scientific meeting.

The BOLD study, which included 3500 people, found that 14% of those tested with spirometry had COPD; however, just 5% of those found to have COPD had been diagnosed with the condition. And among those diagnosed, only 40% had spirometry results demonstrating airway obstruction, with the majority given an incorrect diagnosis.

So why is it that diagnosis of the disease is proving such a challenge?

Getting the diagnosis right is becoming increasingly important, as COPD is becoming a huge and growing global health issue,