Low awareness of COPD among physicians.
Early identification of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the health care system followed by successful smoking cessation may prevent rapid lung function deterioration, development of severe COPD and respiratory failure.
The aim of this study was to determine the frequency of under-diagnosed chronic obstructive lung diseases among current smokers.
MATERIALS AND METHODS:
The under-diagnosis of COPD among smokers was determined in subjects who participated in a screening procedure aimed at recruiting COPD patients for a smoking cessation programme. In order to identify current smokers, a questionnaire was sent out to persons who had been on sick leave for various reasons certified by a physician for more than 2 weeks. Subjects who stated that they currently smoked more than eight cigarettes per day were invited to perform a lung function test.
A total of 3887 subjects performed spirometry, i.e. forced expiratory volume in 1 s and forced expirations, and among these, 674 (17.3%) had COPD according to the European Respiratory Society (ERS) consensus guidelines. Of those, 103 (17.3%) had physician-diagnosed COPD. Productive cough was reported by 16.6% of the COPD subjects. Despite the fact that smokers were on sick leave certified by a physician, more than 80% of those with COPD had no previous diagnosis. As the COPD diagnosis cannot be based on reported symptoms, a spirometry on persons at risk must be performed.
The awareness of COPD among primary care physicians has to increase and smokers above the age of 40, with and without respiratory symptoms, have to undergo spirometry if it is regarded important to establish the COPD diagnosis at an early stage.