How Important is Spirometry for Identifying Patients with COPD Appropriate for Palliative Care?

  • Allison V. Lange
    Address correspondence to: Allison Lange, MD, Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, 12700 E 19th Avenue, 9C03, Aurora, CO, 80045, USA.
    Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine (A.L., A.M.); University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus; Aurora, Colorado
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  • Anuj B. Mehta
    Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine (A.L., A.M.); University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus; Aurora, Colorado

    Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine (A.M.), Denver Health and Hospital Authority; Denver, Colorado
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  • David B. Bekelman
    Medical Service (D.B.), Rocky Mountain Regional Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Aurora, Colorado

    Denver-Seattle Center of Innovation (D.B.); Rocky Mountain Regional Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Aurora, Colorado

    Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine (D.B.); University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus; Aurora, Colorado
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      Providing palliative care to patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a priority. Spirometry demonstrating airflow limitation is a diagnostic test for COPD and a common inclusion criterion for palliative care research. However, requiring spirometry with airflow limitation may exclude appropriate patients unable to complete spirometry, or patients with preserved-ratio impaired spirometry and symptoms or imaging consistent with COPD.


      To determine differences in quality of life (QOL) and symptoms between patients with COPD identified based on International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes and spirometry with airflow limitation compared to ICD codes only.


      Patients with COPD enrolled in a palliative care trial were included. Patients were at high risk of hospitalization and death and reported poor QOL. Baseline measures of QOL (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy–General (FACT-G), the Clinical COPD Questionnaire, and Quality of Life at the End of Life), and symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire-8, Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7, fatigue, Insomnia Severity Index) were compared.


      Two hundred eight patients with COPD were predominantly male, White, and average age was 68.4. Between patients with ICD codes and spirometry with airflow limitation compared to patients with ICD codes only, there were no significant differences in FACT-G (59.0 vs. 55.0, P = 0.33), other measures of QOL, or symptoms between groups.


      These results imply that spirometry may not need to be a requirement for inclusion into palliative care research or clinical care for patients with poor quality of life and at high risk for adverse outcomes.

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