A recent study shows that only one third of patients with a diagnosis of COPD ever received spirometry testing, reports the August issue of Chest.

The study examined patients aged 40 years and older and determined if patients with a new diagnosis of COPD had received spirometry in the preceeding 24 months. Of the 5,039 eligible patients identified, only 32% were found to have received spirometry testing.

"Without proper testing, both underdiagnosis and misdiagnosis may occur, which can lead to improper therapies being prescribed," said lead author MeiLan Han, MD, MS, University of Michigan, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.

The study found that these numbers contradict previous findings in which over 70% of physicians reported using spirometry for establishing a COPD diagnosis. This marked contrast suggests a difference between what physicians say and what they actually do, says Han. Also of concern was the study’s finding that spirometry testing was only performed 28% of the time in patients older than 75, suggesting a patient’s age influences whether or not doctors order testing.

"Spirometry testing is an inexpensive, quick, and painless procedure, which is necessary to confirm a COPD diagnosis," said Mark J. Rosen, MD, FCCP, president of the American College of Chest Physicians. "In order to make a shift in the underutilization of spirometry, physicians need to use all of the resources available to them, and patients need to actively inquire about their care."