Background: 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.
Methods: All patients newly admitted between 1995 and 1996 were analyzed retrospectively. Incident COPD cases were classified according to GOLD criteria.
Results: 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).
Conclusions: 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.
Copyright 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel