Is screening for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease justified?

Prev Med. 1997 Jul-Aug;26(4):466-72. doi: 10.1006/pmed.1997.0177.


Background: Many experts recommend spirometry to screen for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in asymptomatic patients; however, evidence for this recommendation has not been systematically reviewed.

Methods: We examined whether screening spirometry meets standard criteria for effective screening. We performed structured searches of MEDLINE, followed by a selective search of the CITATION index, to locate randomized trials of interventions for asymptomatic patients with COPD. In regard to smoking cessation, we included all controlled trials of smoking cessation programs that used spirometry. We also included all studies that assessed the ability of spirometry to predict successful smoking cessation by comparing baseline lung function in smokers who subsequently quit versus those who did not.

Results: With the exception of smoking cessation, all interventions for COPD have only been proven effective in symptomatic patients. Two studies found that multifaceted smoking cessation programs that included spirometry were efficacious. There was no effect in a third study that isolated the role of spirometry. Smokers with abnormal spirometric results are less likely than other smokers to quit over the ensuing year.

Conclusions: There is no evidence that spirometry, as an isolated intervention, aids smoking cessation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost of Illness
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / economics
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / etiology
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / prevention & control*
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data
  • Spirometry
  • Treatment Outcome