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ATS: High Prevalence of COPD Misdiagnosis Among Uninsured
Only 17.5 percent of patients had spirometry before diagnosis; nearly half had no obstruction

WEDNESDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- The prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) misdiagnosis seems to be high among uninsured populations, with more than 40 percent showing no signs of obstruction on spirometry, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society, held from May 17 to 22 in Philadelphia.

Christian Ghattas, M.D., from Saint Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown, Ohio, and colleagues identified misdiagnosis and/or mistreatment of COPD at a federally qualified health center. Patients were referred for spirometry to confirm COPD diagnosis or for uncontrolled COPD symptoms. The cohort included 80 patients (71 percent uninsured) who were treated for a previous diagnosis of COPD (72 patients) or had been on anticholinergic inhalers with no COPD diagnosis (eight patients).

The researchers found that three of the patients diagnosed with COPD were younger than 35 years and five had never used tobacco products. For these patients, spirometry results were inconsistent with COPD. Previous spirometry was reported by only 17.5 percent of patients. Based on spirometry results, 42.5 percent of the cohort had no obstruction, 22.5 percent had reversible obstruction, and 35 percent had a non-reversible obstruction.

"This study confirms that symptoms alone are insufficient to make a COPD diagnosis," a coauthor said in a statement. "Shortness of breath, cough, and sputum production can indicate other respiratory problems like allergies -- or they may be symptoms of a heart [problem] or of simply being overweight."

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