At its 100th conference, the American Thoracic Society, which celebrates its 100th birthday next year, unveiled definitive, new COPD guidelines on an interactive website.

By Anne Welsbacher

The 100th American Thoracic Society conference in May featured more than 5,000 presentations via symposia, posters, and oral abstracts on myriad topics in clinical and basic science, critical care, sleep medicine, and pediatrics. Among its best of the best—as many topics as there are to peruse at this annual feast, they represent only 25% of the topics proposed for the event—were presentations on early life events and the immune system, new studies in the ARDSNet program, milestones in advanced lung disease, and, especially, tuberculosis. According to outgoing president Homer A. Boushey, Jr, MD, the ATS conference includes the largest meeting on TB in the world.

A highlight of this centennial conference was its unveiling, jointly with the European Respiratory Society (ERS), of new “Guidelines on the Diagnosis and Management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).” Despite the fact that “COPD causes 150,000 deaths and costs $1.5 million in emergency department visits annually, among health care practitioners, doctors, governments, there is not a single place in the world that makes COPD a priority,” said Bill MacNee, MD, cochair of the guidelines committee, adding that even patients “neglect” the disease, feeling that COPD is self-induced or assuming its symptoms are those of aging.

The ATS guidelines are available on an interactive, fully searchable website ( that includes a user-friendly but authoritative section specifically for patients. They incorporate multiple algorithms and will be accessible to Palm Pilots. Their inclusion of disease management algorithms most notably distinguishes them from the GOLD standard already available, as does the addition of more details in some areas. A 12-page printed executive summary is also available and will be published in the European Respiratory Journal.

The new guidelines were built from the bottom up by 43 contributors including RTs, nurses, primary care physicians, and patients “from the trenches.” They update the 1995 guidelines and are intended to raise awareness of COPD; inform health care providers and patients on the latest advances in pathogenesis, diagnosis, monitoring, and management; and promote the concept that COPD, the fourth most common cause of death in the United States, is treatable. The guidelines project was led by ATS/ERS Joint COPD Committee cochairs Bill MacNee, MD, and Bartolome Celli, MD. Also representing the site at its announcement were Boushey; Walter McNicholas, ERS president; and RT editorial advisory board member Brian Tiep, MD, who designed and developed the Web site.

Very present at the unveiling were representatives of the receiving end of all this attention—patients. John Walsh, president of the Alpha-1 Foundation, said, “ATS has set the standard for providing access to patients; these guidelines are a huge step forward.” Barbara Rogers, president of the COPD Resource Network/NECA, thanked the ATS for its work on behalf of COPD patients.


Anne Welsbacher is the former editor of RT. For more information, contact [email protected].