Objective: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of worldwide burden of disease, but is underdiagnosed and undertreated. We performed a systematic review of worldwide COPD clinical practice guidelines (CPG) to determine the degree of international consensus on major guideline recommendations.
Methods: The COPD CPG were identified from the medical literature and through contact with respiratory experts and organizations. An abstraction form was developed to collect information related to COPD diagnosis and management.
Results: Locally developed COPD CPG are based upon expert consensus, but do not explicitly rate the strength of the evidence for recommendations. The detail and clarity of the 41 CPG varied regarding the diagnosis and management of COPD. Key differences included the lung function parameters that define a diagnosis and severity assignment of COPD. The use of anticholinergics, alone or in combination, was listed as a consideration for first-line therapy for persistent COPD in all 41 CPG. There was consensus regarding reserving corticosteroids for selected patients.
Conclusions: There is variation and ambiguity within COPD CPG regarding specific recommendations that can be applied by clinicians at a patient-specific level. The variation in CPG for COPD may contribute to the underdiagnosis and suboptimal treatment of COPD. The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) workshop report may help resolve some of the variation surrounding COPD diagnosis and treatment. However, local guideline implementation efforts must assist physicians in applying guideline recommendations to support patient-specific management.