Simple New Questionnaire Could Lead To Quick COPD Diagnosis

More than 15 million adults in the United States live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. It restricts air from flowing into the lungs, causing shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. Many people have COPD and don't know it.

To help diagnose COPD earlier, a five-question screening tool has been developed, and a new 2023 study in JAMA Network sought to determine its effectiveness. It's called the CAPTURE tool (COPD Assessment in Primary Care to Identify Undiagnosed Respiratory Disease and Exacerbation Risk), and more than 4,000 people aged 45 to 80 who didn't have a previous COPD diagnosis participated in the study. If people scored a 5 or 6 on the CAPTURE questionnaire, they received a positive COPD diagnosis. If people scored between 2 and 4 and had below a certain level of a peak expiratory flow rate (which measures how forceful your exhale is), they also were diagnosed with COPD. The CAPTURE questionnaire identified 53 people with COPD who weren't previously diagnosed.

The questionnaire isn't perfect

According to a news release from the National Institutes of Health, the questionnaire identified just below half the people who had COPD. However, the questionnaire also had 479 false positives, meaning that these people received an incorrect diagnosis as a result of the questionnaire. The researchers determined this by giving a full COPD screening to all people involved in the study.

In 2022, the United States Preventive Services Task Force said there wasn't a benefit in COPD screening for people who didn't show symptoms. The study's researchers don't agree with that assessment, however, telling Healthline that early COPD detection is important so patients can receive treatment much earlier. They also said that COPD symptoms develop slowly, and therefore patients might not notice them. Some COPD patients might attribute symptoms such as shortness of breath, for example, to aging and not suspect they have the disease. The researchers are looking to improve the accuracy of the questionnaire so that doctors can have a quick tool to test for COPD during visits with their patients.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports that COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Although COPD can be prevented by giving up cigarette smoking, 30% of people with COPD never smoked.