Differences between physician and patient in the perception of symptoms and their severity in COPD

Respir Med. 2013 Dec;107(12):1977-85. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2013.06.019. Epub 2013 Jul 24.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) impairs quality of life and presents symptoms that affect the lives of patients. Our study analysed the degree of concordance between the patients and their pulmonologists in the perception of the severity of symptoms. A cross-sectional, descriptive, multicentre study was conducted in patients with COPD. From a list of 10 symptoms (cough, dry mouth, chest pain, expectoration, wheezing/whistling in the lungs, depression/sadness/discouragement, fatigue/tiredness/general lack of energy, anxiety/nervousness, breathlessness/shortness of breath upon exertion and difficulty sleeping/sleep disorders) each investigator and patient assessed those which, in their opinion, most concerned or affected the patient. A total of 450 patients were included in the study (91.3% males, 66.7 years old (SD = 10.2), FEV1(%) 51.7% (SD = 12.7%)). At an aggregate level, breathlessness/shortness of breath, fatigue/tiredness and coughing were identified by patients and physicians as being the most relevant symptoms. However, according to the concordance analysis conducted with individual pairs (each pulmonologist with his/her patient), only 52.8% coincided when identifying the symptom that most concerned or affected the life of the patient. The concordance analysed by the Kappa index between patients and physicians was poor (<0.42). The degree of physician-patient concordance was greater in patients with more severe COPD. The patients and their pulmonologists identified the same three main symptoms of COPD but showed low concordance when assessing the impact of the symptoms of the illness.

Keywords: COPD; Concordance; Patient; Physician; Severity; Symptoms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Cough / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dyspnea / psychology
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perception
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / psychology*
  • Vital Capacity / physiology