A simple low-cost test enables early diagnosis of COPD, new study finds

A summary of research published in BMJ Open

Using a questionnaire and lung function test together can help diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at an early stage, according to new research.

What did the study look at?

2,445 volunteers took part in a study at community health centres across China. Participants were 40 years old and above. They completed 6 different tests including questionnaires and lung function tests, such as spirometry and peak flow tests. Researchers looked at which participants were already diagnosed with COPD and then assessed which of the tests was able to spot this in a cost-effective way.

What do the results show?

Results found that combining the questionnaire, known as the Chinese symptom-based questionnaire, and micro-spirometry test, which measures how much a person can breathe out in one breath, was the most accurate and cost-effective way of finding out who needed treatment for COPD.

Why is this important?

By researching different methods to diagnose cases of COPD at an early stage, healthcare professionals can put this into practice to treat people as soon as possible. This can improve quality of life and help people to manage their condition.

The findings come from the ‘Breathe Well’ project, part of the NIHR Global Health Research Group on Global COPD in Primary Care. The project is publishing a range of research findings this year, that focus on evaluating COPD screening strategies, promoting smoking cessation and improving disease management in primary care settings.

Read the original research paper

Title: Accuracy and cost-effectiveness of different screening strategies for identifying undiagnosed COPD among primary care patients (≥40 years) in China: a cross-sectional screening test accuracy study: findings from the Breathe Well group