Background and objective: Temporal trends of healthcare use in the period before a diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis are poorly understood. We investigated trends in respiratory symptoms and LR HRU in the 10 years prior to diagnosis.
Methods: We analysed a primary care clinical cohort database (UK OPCRD) and assessed patients aged ≥40 years who had an electronically coded diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis between 2005 and 2015 and a minimum 2 years of continuous medical records prior to diagnosis. Exclusion criteria consisted of electronic codes for recognized causes of pulmonary fibrosis such as CTD, sarcoidosis or EAA.
Results: Data for 2223 patients were assessed. Over the 10 years prior to diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis, there was a progressive increase in HRU across multiple LR-related domains. Five years before diagnosis, 18% of patients had multiple healthcare contacts for LR complaints; this increased to 79% in the year before diagnosis, with 38% of patients having five or more healthcare contacts.
Conclusion: There are opportunities to diagnose pulmonary fibrosis at an earlier stage; research into case-finding algorithms and strategies to educate primary care physicians is required.
Keywords: clinical epidemiology; clinical respiratory medicine; cough; pulmonary fibrosis; respiratory function tests.
© 2020 Asian Pacific Society of Respirology.