Certain patients misdiagnosed under new COPD guidelines

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients in Missouri might be surprised that a new study suggests that guidelines for diagnosing the condition is leading in some cases to a misdiagnosis. Conducted in the United Kingdom, the study highlights the resulting risks as well.

The Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease defined airway obstruction in 2001 as a FEV1/FVC value of less than 0.7, which is the ratio of forced expiratory volume in one second divided by the forced vital capacity of the patient. The goal of the definition was to make it easier to detect COPD in non-specialist settings. The guidelines were adopted in the United Kingdom and have been widely used in the United States and other countries as well. More than 150 international organizations and experts asked GOLD in 2010 to modify its fixed definition.

While reviewing these guidelines, the authors of the study report an over-diagnosis of COPD in older men and under-diagnosis in young women. They estimate that as many as 13 percent of patients are misdiagnosed with the disorder under the criteria, which can have serious consequences because of the negative effects of wrong treatment or inappropriate medication. Using an inhaler treatment when it is unnecessary, for instance, increases the risk of severe pneumonia.

COPD is a common lung disease around the world. In the United States, it is the third-leading cause of death resulting from a disease, and smoking is likely the primary cause. COPD gets worse as the patient ages, increasing the risk of cough, breathlessness and airway obstruction.

Patients whose conditions have been improperly diagnosed may wish to speak with a medical malpractice attorney to see what recourse they may have. A misdiagnosis can result in a worsened condition, requiring significant additional medical care and treatment, and an attorney can assist in determining whether it is advisable to seek compensation from the responsible practitioner for the damages that have been sustained.