18 June 2020
The best criterion for diagnosing airway obstruction in COPD, fixed ratio (FR: FEV1/FVC<0.7) or lower limit of normality (LLN), remains controversial. We compared the long-term evolution of COPD patients according to the initial obstruction criteria.
Between 2005 and 2008, we evaluated 1728 subjects over 45 years of age with smoking history, pertaining to a primary care center. A total of 424 patients were obstructive by FR, after a bronchodilator test. Of those, 289 patients met obstruction criteria for both FR and LLN and were considered concordant patients (FR+LLN+), while 135 patients were obstructive by FR but non-obstructive by LLN and were defined as discordant patients (FR+LLN-).
Forty-eight patients (11.3%) were lost in follow-up, and 158 died (37.3%). After a median time of 120.4 months (IQR 25–75%: 110.2–128.8), 215 patients were spirometrically reevaluated. The annualized loss of FEV1/FVC was greater in discordant (FR+LLN-) patients [0.54 (0.8) vs 0.82 (0.7); p = 0.008], while 81% became concordant (FR+LLN+) during the follow-up. Hospitalization for COPD exacerbations was more frequent in concordant (FR+LLN+) patients (1.57±3.51 vs 0.77±2.29; p = 0.002). Adjusting for age, concordant (FR+LLN+) patients had greater COPD mortality (HR: 2.97; CI 95%: 1.27–7.3; p = 0.02).