Currently underused as a diagnostic, pulmonary function testing would benefit COPD patients if it was more consistently used to diagnose the disease, according to a study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Researchers looked at data for 68,898 patients diagnosed with COPD between 2005 and 2012, including 16 798 patients with newly diagnosed COPD. Only 41% had received pulmonary function testing, and these patients were more likely to be younger, have seen a specialist and have a primary care physician who followed clinical guidelines for COPD. They were also less likely to have comorbidities.

The researchers found that patients who underwent lung function testing as a diagnostic tool were 10.4% less likely to be hospitalized for COPD or to die of any cause compared with patients who did not undergo testing.