Article Title

Barriers to the use of spirometry in general practice

Abstract

Background: Guidelines advise chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should be diagnosed and managed by using spirometry to demonstrate irreversible airflow limitation and monitor change in smokers and ex-smokers aged over 35 years.

Methods: A cross-sectional study of patients and their general practitioners investigating use of spirometry in COPD in two practices by lung function assessment, review of practice records, interviews and focus groups.

Results: Sixteen GPs, and 38 patients with a diagnosis of COPD participated. At diagnosis, although 72% had spirometry, this occurred in only 41% of 17 patients diagnosed by a GP; but in all 19 cases when a specialist was involved. Diagnosis often occurred late, despite all patients having previously recorded symptoms typical of COPD. General practitioners expressed a preference to diagnose COPD on clinical grounds. Although 58% of patients had recent spirometry for current management, only 32% were performed by their GP. There were organisational and technical barriers to spirometry and poor recognition of the essential role of spirometry in the diagnosis of COPD.

Discussion: There are a number of potentially reversible factors that hinder practice recommendations regarding the use of spirometry in general practice to diagnose and manage COPD.

Keywords

peer-reviewed