Australian Family Physician
Australian Family Physician


Volume 38, Issue 10, October 2009

Feasibility and efficacy of COPD case finding by practice nurses

Oshana Hermiz Sanjyot Vagholkar Nicholas A Zwar Jeremy Bunker Sarah M Dennis Alan J Crockett Guy Marks
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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of disability, hospital admission and premature mortality, but is often undiagnosed. This study assessed the effectiveness, feasibility and acceptability of COPD case finding by practice nurses performing spirometry on patients identified as being at risk of developing COPD.
This study confirmed that COPD is underdiagnosed, with 20% of those at risk and attending for screening having COPD. The search strategy successfully identified patients at risk. Further training in spirometry would be required for practice nurses to increase the accuracy of the diagnoses. The opportunity cost would require consideration. The acceptability to patients is also an issue, this may be related to the recruitment method or the intervention. This study also does not answer whether earlier diagnosis in these patients leads to any change in outcomes.
Seventy-nine patients attended, 16 (20.3% of attendees) had COPD diagnosed on spirometry; practice nurses correctly identified 10 of the 16, but also incorrectly identified a further six patients as having COPD. One patient in the usual care group was diagnosed with COPD, but this was not confirmed on spirometry.

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