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Missed diagnosis and overtreatment of COPD among smoking primary care population in Central Greece: old problems persist

Authors Stafyla E, Kotsiou OS, Deskata K, Gourgoulianis KI

Received 1 August 2017

Accepted for publication 22 October 2017

Published 5 February 2018 Volume 2018:13 Pages 487—498

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/COPD.S147628

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Charles Downs

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Russell


Eirini Stafyla, Ourania S Kotsiou, Konstantina Deskata, Konstantinos I Gourgoulianis

Department of Respiratory Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Thessaly, Biopolis, Larissa, Thessaly, Greece

Background: The diagnosis of COPD is not always consistent with the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) strategy in daily clinical practice, especially in primary care. This study aimed to estimate the overall COPD prevalence and severity, to identify differences between newly and previously diagnosed patients, and to evaluate the potential COPD overtreatment in a smoking population attending a primary care spirometry surveillance program.
Methods: A study was conducted in 10 primary health care centers of Central Greece during a 7-month period. Eligible participants were aged ≥40 years and were either current smokers or exsmokers.
Results: A total of 186 subjects were included (68% males, mean age 62.3±12.6 years, mean life-time tobacco exposure 50 pack-years). COPD prevalence was 17.8%, identified to be higher in elderly males. Forty-two percent of the COPD group were newly diagnosed patients, who were of younger age, current smokers, presented with less dyspnea and better health status, and mainly appeared with mild-to-moderate disease. Interestingly, 61.4% of non-COPD and 85.7% of newly diagnosed COPD individuals had been using inhaled medication under primary care provider’s prescription without ever undergoing spirometry or further evaluation by a pulmonologist; thus, the phenomena of COPD overdiagnosis and missed diagnosis came into the spotlight. Moreover, only 26.3% of known COPD patients were properly medicated according to GOLD guidelines, while half of them were inappropriately treated with triple inhaled therapy.
Conclusion: We reported a significant prevalence of COPD in smoking population attending this spirometry program. A remarkable proportion of COPD patients were undiagnosed and made case finding worthwhile. Underutilization of spirometry in the diagnosis and management of COPD as well as general practitioners’ nonadherence to the GOLD treatment guidelines was confirmed by our data. These findings highlight the need for a major overhaul and culture change in primary care settings of Central Greece.

Keywords: COPD management, GOLD guidelines, treatment, spirometry program, primary care

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