Undiagnosed Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Contributes to the Burden of Health Care Use

Labonté, LE. et al. 2016. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations represent an important determinant of the overall burden of COPD and contribute greatly to the increasing cost of the disease. These episodes of acute symptom worsening are associated with accelerated lung function decline, impaired health status, increased hospitalization, and increased mortality. The incidence and impact of exacerbation events in persons with undiagnosed COPD within the general population is unknown.

What this study adds: This study shows for the first time that despite experiencing fewer exacerbations, health care use to treat exacerbation-like events in undiagnosed individuals with COPD is similar to that of diagnosed individuals. Consequently, COPD exacerbation events contribute much more than previously thought to the overall burden of COPD. Considering that a significant number of people remain undiagnosed with COPD, the exacerbation-like events they experience are being treated as isolated incidences without awareness of the need for future management of underlying COPD.