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Respiration. 2003 Jan-Feb;70(1):67-75.

Newly diagnosed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Clinical features and distribution of the novel stages of the Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease.

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Pulmonary Department, Internal Medicine, University HospitalMainz, Mainz, Germany.



The new guidelines of the Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) propose a novel staging system for COPD. This study describes the frequency distribution of GOLD stages in newly diagnosed COPD patients in a large city pulmonary practice.


All patients newly admitted between 1995 and 1996 were analyzed retrospectively. Incident COPD cases were classified according to GOLD criteria.


Among 1,434 patients, 210 were diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (60% males, age 55 years, range 20-82 years). 67.5% of the patients were current smokers, 27% ex-smokers, and 5.5% nonsmokers. Based on GOLD criteria, 37% had stage 0, 5% stage I, 46% stage II, and 12% stage III COPD. Symptoms leading patients to seek medical advice were cough (84%), exertional dyspnea (70%), and sputum (45%), with a median symptom duration of 12 months (range 1-240 months). Compared with patients with GOLD stages 0-1, those with stages 2-3 were older (60 vs. 47 years, p < 0.001), heavier smokers (40 vs. 20 pack-years, p < 0.001), had a longer duration of symptoms (24 vs. 6 months, p < 0.001), and elevated IgE (stage 3 only, p < 0.04 vs. stages 0-2). Interestingly, stage 0 COPD patients did not have 'normal' spirometry, as indicated by significantly lower FEV(1) (% predicted) and FEF(25-75) (% predicted), compared with age-matched nonsmoking controls (93.1 +/- 1.8 vs. 99 +/- 1.6, p = 0.004; and 76.2 +/- 2.8 vs. 91.2 +/- 2.9, p = 0.0003, respectively).


The majority of COPD patients seek medical advice at advanced disease stages, and smoke actively despite severe symptoms and functional impairment. However, nearly every second patient presents at stages 0-1, thus opening a window for therapeutic or behavioral intervention. GOLD guidelines are a useful basis to reinforce screening programs aimed at early detection and prevention of progressive COPD in individuals at risk and smoking cessation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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