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COPD. 2009 Feb;6(1):26-30. doi: 10.1080/15412550802587927.

Physician alert suggesting alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency testing in pulmonary function test (PFT) results.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Florida-Fort Lauderdale/Weston, 2950 Cleveland Clinic Blvd., Fort Lauderdale/ Weston, FL 33331, USA.


Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) is under-recognized by clinicians, with long diagnostic delays between patients' first symptom and initial diagnosis. Recent recommendations by official societies encourage testing for AATD in all symptomatic adults with spirometric evidence of COPD, though compliance with this recommendation has been variable. For 6 months, the following physician alert was added to PFT reports of patients with airflow obstruction of GOLD Stage II or higher: "The American Thoracic Society recommends testing for AATD in all patients with FEV1 < 80% predicted and FEV1/FVC less than 0.70, if clinically indicated. Appropriate counseling suggested." During the "Pre-alert Period," 821 spirometry tests were performed; 178 of these 821 unique patients (22%) satisfied spirometric criteria of > GOLD Stage II and 11 (6%) were tested for AATD. In contrast, during the "Physician Alert" intervention period, 689 spirometry tests were performed on 689 unique patients, of whom 140 (20%) satisfied criteria for > GOLD II airflow obstruction; AAT testing was done more frequently (18 [13%], p = 0.04). The overall rate of misclassifying patients' reports for testing by the respiratory therapists was very low (3.3%). An analysis of "number needed to test" suggests that 98-290 patients must be tested to have 95% certainty to identify a single patient with severe AATD. In conclusion, implementing a physician alert on PFT reports of patients with COPD can increase physicians' testing for AATD. The incomplete rate of testing suggests the need for additional strategies to enhance clinicians' detection of individuals with AATD.

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