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J Asthma. 1998;35(4):381-7.

How to avoid underdiagnosed asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?

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Department of General Practice and Social Medicine, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


The prevalence of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is rising in most countries, including The Netherlands. It has been suggested that a majority of these cases of (self-reported) symptoms related to asthma/COPD are not diagnosed in general practice. We compared a population screening for underdiagnosed asthma/COPD with a high-risk approach by a questionnaire form with specified questions about asthma/COPD-related symptoms. A case-controlled study including a record review was performed of cases and controls. The results of a population screening were used to classify patients as (a) asthma/COPD, (b) at risk for asthma/COPD, or (c) no asthma/COPD. Eleven hundred fifty-five patients were screened. One hundred fifty-five patients reported previous asthma/COPD-related care (cases). The difference between number of cases and controls in asthma/COPD diagnosis was chosen as main outcome measure. The population screening revealed 85 subjects with a diagnosis of asthma/COPD and 154 subjects with an increased risk. Nineteen diagnoses could be made in cases, and eight diagnoses in controls. The chart review showed that only seven cases and two controls were known to the general practitioner. From this study it can be concluded that in order to reduce the number of un- and underdiagnosed patients, all listed patients in general practice should be screened. However, if screening of all patients is not feasible, active case finding by asking a few questions about shortness of breath or wheezing to all patients in the group of listed individuals is recommended.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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