Background: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a systemic disease; morbidity and mortality due to COPD are on the increase, and it has great impact on patients' lives. Most COPD patients are managed by general practitioners (GP). Too often, GPs base their initial assessment of patient's disease severity mainly on lung function. However, lung function correlates poorly with COPD-specific health-related quality of life and exacerbation frequency. A validated COPD disease risk index that better represents the clinical manifestations of COPD and is feasible in primary care seems to be useful. The objective of this study is to develop and validate a practical COPD disease risk index that predicts the clinical course of COPD in primary care patients with GOLD stages 2-4.
Methods/design: We will conduct 2 linked prospective cohort studies with COPD patients from GPs in Switzerland and the Netherlands. We will perform a baseline assessment including detailed patient history, questionnaires, lung function, history of exacerbations, measurement of exercise capacity and blood sampling. During the follow-up of at least 2 years, we will update the patients' profile by registering exacerbations, health-related quality of life and any changes in the use of medication. The primary outcome will be health-related quality of life. Secondary outcomes will be exacerbation frequency and mortality. Using multivariable regression analysis, we will identify the best combination of variables predicting these outcomes over one and two years and, depending on funding, even more years.
Discussion: Despite the diversity of clinical manifestations and available treatments, assessment and management today do not reflect the multifaceted character of the disease. This is in contrast to preventive cardiology where, nowadays, the treatment in primary care is based on patient-specific and fairly refined cardiovascular risk profile corresponding to differences in prognosis. After completion of this study, we will have a practical COPD-disease risk index that predicts the clinical course of COPD in primary care patients with GOLD stages 2-4. In a second step we will incorporate evidence-based treatment effects into this model, such that the instrument may guide physicians in selecting treatment based on the individual patients' prognosis.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Archive NCT00706602.