A new study provides evidence to support a simple measurement for diagnosing clinically significant airflow obstruction, the key characteristic of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. The study found that a 70% ratio of two indicators of lung function proved as or more accurate than other thresholds for predicting COPD-related hospitalizations and deaths.
The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and its findings were published online today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Approximately 16 million Americans have COPD, and it is estimated that millions more have the disease and do not know it.
The research, which draws on a wide range of multi-ethnic studies, validates current guidelines from major respiratory societies and contributes to identify a fixed threshold of disease severity. This approach has led to great strides in early detection and treatment of other conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.
“Diagnosis of airflow obstruction remains a major hurdle to improving care for patients with COPD,” said James Kiley, Ph.D., director of the NHLBI Division of Lung Diseases. “This validation of a fixed threshold confirms the usefulness of a simple approach for assessment of the disease. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Division of Lung Diseases, this rigorous analysis of populations-based, multiethnic studies is yet another example of research we fund that improves clinical practice, public health, and patient care.”