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Case identification strategy urged for early COPD screening

By Mark Pownall

Using ‘quick and dirty' spirometry to identify people at risk of COPD can help pick up the illness more quickly, delay decline in lung function and reduce symptom burden, according to GP respiratory specialists.

A research team led by Professor David Price, a GP in Norwich and advisor to the Department of Health on its forthcoming clinical strategy for COPD, published the research online in the Primary Care Respiratory Journal.

They argued that targeted, systematic case-identification could be used as a strategy to increase early detection and improve diagnosis of COPD – a key DH target.

Professor David Price, professor of primary care respiratory medicine at the University of Aberdeen, concluded: ‘While the use of spirometry in mass population screening remains controversial, its use in targeted case-identification is feasible in most primary care settings.'

Fellow study researcher Dr Rupert Jones, leader of the respiratory research unit at the Peninsula Medical School and a GP in Plymouth, said GPs should be encouraged to use spirometry in the community to rule out those who do not have COPD.

‘Diagnostic spirometry requires trained users and high-quality equipment that is regularly maintained and calibrated. But there is a big difference between using a little hand-held spirometer as a quick screening test and making a formal diagnosis of COPD. If it gives normal airflow readings, it excludes COPD.'

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