Recognising chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in primary care requires active case finding in symptomatic patients. Spirometry is essential for diagnosis.
- A diagnosis of COPD is made in a patient with typical symptoms (dyspnoea, cough, sputum) in whom spirometry demonstrates expiratory airflow obstruction that cannot be fully reversed by a bronchodilator.
- Underdiagnosis of COPD likely reflects a multitude of factors related to both patients and doctors.
- Screening of asymptomatic patients is not recommended; rather, early diagnosis in primary care relies on active case finding in symptomatic patients.
- Early diagnosis allows interventions, such as smoking cessation strategies, that may help to avoid the devastating consequences of advanced COPD.