Spirometry is the current gold standard for diagnosing and monitoring the progression of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). However, many current and former smokers who do not meet established spirometric criteria for the diagnosis of this disease have symptoms and clinical courses similar to those with diagnosed COPD. Large longitudinal observational studies following individuals at risk of developing COPD offer us additional insight into spirometric patterns of disease development and progression. Analysis of forced expiratory maneuver changes over time may allow us to better understand early changes predictive of progressive disease. This review discusses the theoretical ability of spirometry to capture fine pathophysiologic changes in early airway disease, highlights the shortcomings of current diagnostic criteria, and reviews existing evidence for spirometric measures which may be used to better detect early airflow impairment.
Keywords: Early COPD; Obstruction; Spirometry.
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