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Task Force Recommends Against Screening for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using Spirometry
Date:3/3/2008

ROCKVILLE, Md., March 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Adults without symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should not be screened for the disease using spirometry, according to a new recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The recommendation and the accompanying summary of evidence are posted online in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It will appear in the April 1, 2008, print edition of the journal.

COPD is a lung disease in which the airways in the lungs are damaged, making it hard to breathe. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death and affects more than 5 percent of the U.S. population. Current or past cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Breathing in chemicals or other kinds of lung irritants over a long period of time may also cause or contribute to COPD, and individuals over the age of 40 are also at higher risk for the disease.

Screening for COPD is most often performed using spirometry, a lung function test that uses a spirometer machine. Spirometry is performed by having a patient breathe into a tube attached to a spirometer machine, which calculates the amount of air the lungs can hold and the rate that air can be inhaled and exhaled. The results of the test are compared with those of healthy individuals of similar height and age and of the same gender and race.

The Task Force found that the benefits of screening individuals without symptoms of COPD were very small. Approximately 400 adults between the ages of 60-69 would need to be screened in order to identify a single patient who may later develop COPD symptoms severe enough to require immediate medical care. The Task Force also found that spirometry can substantially overdiagnose COPD in people over the age of 70 who have never smoked and can produce some false positives in younger adults.

In those patients experiencing symptoms of COPD, including coughing that doesn't go away, coughing up large a
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SOURCE Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality
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