Aims: To describe the distribution of COPD disease severity in primary care based on airway obstruction, and to assess the extent to which dyspnoea scores, body mass index (BMI) and fat free mass (FFM) index contribute to the distribution of COPD severity in primary care.
Design: Cross sectional population-based study.
Methods: 317 patients with COPD were recruited from an outpatient disease management programme. Prevalence of moderate to severe dyspnoea, underweight, obesity and FFM depletion by GOLD stage were measured.
Results: According to GOLD guidelines, 29% of patients had mild COPD, 48% moderate, 17% severe and 5% very severe. A substantial number of patients classified as GOLD stage 2 reported severe dyspnoea (28.1%) and/or suffered from FFM depletion (16.3%). Prevalence of low body weight strongly increased in GOLD stage 4. Prevalence of obesity is highest in GOLD stages 1 and 2.
Conclusion: The use of a multidimensional grading system, taking into account dyspnoea as well as the nutritional status of COPD patients, is likely to influence the distribution of disease severity in a primary care population. This might have implications for prevention, non-medical treatment, and estimates of health care utilisation in primary care.