Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the use of spirometry for the diagnosis and follow-up of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in primary care in terms of deficiencies and the requirements for its correct use, and to identify the regimens most commonly used in patients with COPD.
Methods: The study included 839 primary care physicians, each of whom completed 2 questionnaires, one on treatment of COPD and the other on the use of spirometry for diagnosis and follow-up of the disease.
Results: Notable among the results was the high number of questionnaires in which no response was given to the question on classification of patients according to the severity of airway obstruction (10.7% of cases) and the low number of correct responses to questions on treatment with bronchodilators during the stable phase of COPD (15.1%). The highest rate of correct responses was for questions regarding the indication for spirometry, all of which were answered correctly in more than 60% of cases. Only 59.2% of primary health care centers performed spirometry, mainly due to a lack of training. In more than 30% of cases the nursing staff had not received specific training, a finding that was reflected in the poor compliance with guidelines for calibration (10.9% of health care centers performed daily calibrations), cleaning of the spirometer (in 13.9% of cases the equipment was never cleaned), and providing patients with pretest recommendations (30% did not provide recommendations the day before spirometry).
Conclusions: Primary care physicians are aware of the usefulness of spirometry for the diagnosis and follow-up of COPD. Although they are able to recognize airflow obstruction, they do not classify patients correctly in terms of severity. Very limited availability of spirometry was observed in primary health care centers and there was little training in the use of the technique, a finding reflected in the poor compliance with guidelines for its use.