Do spirometry and regular follow-up improve health outcomes in general practice patients with asthma or COPD? A cluster randomised controlled trial

Med J Aust. 2010 Jul 19;193(2):104-9. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2010.tb03817.x.


Objective: To determine whether spirometry with regular medical review improves the quality of life or other health outcomes among patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) managed in general practice.

Design, setting and participants: Cluster randomised controlled trial conducted in 31 general practices in Melbourne during 2007-2008. Practices recruited 305 adult patients who had been prescribed inhaled medication in the preceding 6 months.

Intervention: Practices were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Group A patients received 3-monthly spirometry performed by a respiratory scientist with results returned to the practice and regular medical review; Group B patients received spirometry only before and after the trial; and Group C patients received usual care.

Main outcome measures: Quality of life, assessed with the 36-item Short Form (SF-36) Australian (English) Version 2 questionnaire at baseline and 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. Secondary outcomes were assessed with the European Community Respiratory Health Survey at baseline and 12 months.

Results: The trial was completed by 253 participants: 79 in Group A, 104 in Group B, and 70 in Group C. Median age was 58 years (range, 18-70 years), and 167 participants (66%) were women. There were no significant changes in SF-36 Physical and Mental Component Summary scores from baseline to 12 months, or significant differences between groups on either scale or any subscale of the SF-36. There were also no significant differences in respiratory symptoms, asthma attacks, written asthma action plans, days lost from usual activities or health care utilisation.

Conclusion: Three-monthly spirometry and regular medical reviews by general practitioners are not associated with any significant improvement in quality of life or other health outcomes for patients with asthma and/or COPD.

Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12606000378527.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Disease Management
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Quality of Life
  • Spirometry* / statistics & numerical data
  • Victoria