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      Validity and interpretation of spirometric recordings to diagnose COPD in UK primary care

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          The diagnosis of COPD is dependent upon clinical judgment and confirmation of the presence of airflow obstruction using spirometry. Spirometry is now routinely available; however, spirometry incorrectly performed or interpreted can lead to misdiagnosis. We aimed to determine whether spirometry undertaken in primary care for patients suspected to have COPD was of sufficient quality and whether their spirometry was correctly interpreted.


          Two chest physicians re-read all spirometric readings for both quality of the procedure and interpretation, received as a part of COPD validation studies using data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). We then used logistic regression to investigate predictors of correct interpretation.


          Spirometry traces were obtained for 306 patients, of which 221 (72.2%) were conducted in primary care. Of those conducted in primary care, 98.6% (n=218) of spirometry traces were of adequate quality. Of those traces that were of adequate quality and conducted in primary care, and in whom a general practitioner (GP) diagnosis of COPD had been made, 72.5% (n=218) were consistent with obstruction. Historical records for asthma diagnosis significantly decreased odds of correct interpretation.


          The quality of the spirometry procedure undertaken in primary care is high. However, this was not reflected in the quality of interpretation, suggesting an unmet training in primary care. The quality of the spirometry procedure as demonstrated by spirometric tracings provides a re-assurance for the use of spirometric values available in the electronic health care record databases for research purposes.

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          Validation of the Recording of Acute Exacerbations of COPD in UK Primary Care Electronic Healthcare Records

          Background Acute Exacerbations of COPD (AECOPD) identified from electronic healthcare records (EHR) are important for research, public health and to inform healthcare utilisation and service provision. However, there is no standardised method of identifying AECOPD in UK EHR. We aimed to validate the recording of AECOPD in UK EHR. Methods We randomly selected 1385 patients with COPD from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink. We selected dates of possible AECOPD based on 15 different algorithms between January 2004 and August 2013. Questionnaires were sent to GPs asking for confirmation of their patients’ AECOPD on the dates identified and for any additional relevant information. Responses were reviewed independently by two respiratory physicians. Positive predictive value (PPV) and sensitivity were calculated. Results The response rate was 71.3%. AECOPD diagnostic codes, lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) codes, and prescriptions of antibiotics and oral corticosteroids (OCS) together for 5–14 days had a high PPV (>75%) for identifying AECOPD. Symptom-based algorithms and prescription of antibiotics or OCS alone had lower PPVs (60–75%). A combined strategy of antibiotic and OCS prescriptions for 5–14 days, or LRTI or AECOPD code resulted in a PPV of 85.5% (95% CI, 82.7–88.3%) and a sensitivity of 62.9% (55.4–70.4%). Conclusion Using a combination of diagnostic and therapy codes, the validity of AECOPD identified from EHR can be high. These strategies are useful for understanding health-care utilisation for AECOPD, informing service provision and for researchers. These results highlight the need for common coding strategies to be adopted in primary care to allow easy and accurate identification of events.
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            Diagnostic spirometry in primary care: Proposed standards for general practice compliant with American Thoracic Society and European Respiratory Society recommendations: a General Practice Airways Group (GPIAG)1 document, in association with the Association for Respiratory Technology & Physiology (ARTP)2 and Education for Health3 1 2 3

            Primary care spirometry services can be provided by trained primary care staff, peripatetic specialist services, or through referral to hospital-based or laboratory spirometry. The first of these options is the focus of this Standards Document. It aims to provide detailed information for clinicians, managers and healthcare commissioners on the key areas of quality required for diagnostic spirometry in primary care--including training requirements and quality assurance. These proposals and recommendations are designed to raise the standard of spirometry and respiratory diagnosis in primary care and to provide the impetus for debate, improvement and maintenance of quality for diagnostic (rather than screening) spirometry performed in primary care. This document should therefore challenge current performance and should constitute an aspirational guide for delivery of this service.
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              Attaining a correct diagnosis of COPD in general practice.

              Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is common. Diagnosis should include objective evidence of airways obstruction and spirometry is recommended in guidelines and the general medical services contract in the UK. We assessed the impact of spirometry in general practice. We determined by questionnaire the availability, staff training, use and the interpretation results of spirometry in 72% of general practices in Wales. We reviewed the diagnosis of COPD previously made in two general practices without spirometry. Most practices had a spirometer (82.4%) and used it (85.6%). Confidence in use and interpretation of results varied widely: 58.1% were confident in use and 33.8% confident in interpretation. Spirometry was performed more often if confident in use and interpretation (both P<0.001) and was related to greater training periods (P<0.001). Spirometric confirmation of COPD varied widely (0-100%, median 37%). Of the 125 patients previously diagnosed with COPD 61 had spirometric confirmation, while 25 had reversible obstruction (range 210-800 mls), 34 had normal and 5 had restrictive spirometry. Despite incentives to perform spirometry in general practice, lack of adequate training in use and interpretation suggests use is confounded and the diagnosis of COPD is likely to be made on imprecise clinical grounds.

                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                07 June 2017
                : 12
                : 1663-1668
                [1 ]Respiratory Epidemiology, Occupational Medicine and Public Health, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London
                [2 ]Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London
                [3 ]Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, University Hospitals Birmingham, Birmingham
                [4 ]Medical School, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University College London
                [5 ]Jersey General Hospital, St Helier, Jersey
                [6 ]Respiratory Epidemiology, GlaxoSmithKline R&D, Uxbridge, UK
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Kieran J Rothnie, Respiratory Epidemiology, Occupational Medicine and Public Health, National Heart and Lung Institute, Emmanuel Kaye Building, Imperial College London, London SW3 6LR, UK, Tel +44 20 7594 8824, Email k.rothnie@
                © 2017 Rothnie et al. This work is published by Dove Medical Press Limited, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License

                The full terms of the License are available at The license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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