Article Title

How have we been managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Australia?


Aim: Although chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a main cause of disability, hospital admissions and premature deaths in Australia, little is known about the community management of COPD in relation to recently published guidelines. The aim of the article was to report on COPD management in a community based cohort.

Methods: A random sample of adults aged between 45 and 70 years drawn from the electoral roll participated in the study. They completed a detailed respiratory questionnaire, spirometry, methacholine challenge and measurement of transfer factor. COPD was defined according to the Global initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) criteria. Current asthma was defined as wheeze during the last 12 months together with bronchial hyperreactivity. Subjects were classified as either COPD-only, asthma-only or both asthma and COPD.

Results: Of 1224 subjects completing spirometry, 39 (3.5%) met the GOLD criteria for stage 2 or 3 COPD, asthma-only was found in 99 (8.9%) subjects and 40 (3.6%) subjects had both asthma and COPD. The COPD-only group was significantly older than the other two groups. More than 40% of subjects with COPD did not have a diagnosis of COPD from their doctors. Only 48.7% of subjects with COPD had ever been prescribed medication for their breathing. More than two-thirds of all subjects had seen a doctor for breathing problems, but very few had seen a general practitioner in the last 12 months and even fewer had respiratory function tests.

Conclusions: Most subjects with COPD are being undertreated. Diagnosis, monitoring and referral systems should be improved. Preventive activities such as influenza vaccination and smoking cessation should be intensified.



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