Guidelines recommend detection of early chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but evidence on the diagnostic work-up for COPD only concerns advanced and established COPD.
To quantify the accuracy of symptoms and signs for early COPD, and the added value of C-reactive protein (CRP), in primary care patients presenting with cough.
Design and setting
Cross-sectional diagnostic study of 73 primary care practices in the Netherlands
Four hundred primary care patients (182 males, mean age 63 years) older than 50 years, presenting with persistent cough (>14 days) without established COPD participated, of whom 382 completed the study. They underwent a systematic diagnostic work-up of symptoms, signs, conventional laboratory CRP level, and hospital lung functions tests, including body plethysmography, and an expert panel decided whether COPD was present (reference test). The independent value of all items was estimated by multivariable logistic regression analysis.
According to the expert panel, 118 patients had COPD (30%). Symptoms and signs with independent diagnostic value were age, sex, current smoking, smoking more than 20 pack-years, cardiovascular comorbidity, wheezing complaints, diminished breath sounds, and wheezing on auscultation. Combining these items resulted in an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC area) of 0.79 (95% confidence interval = 0.74 to 0.83) after internal validation. The proportion of subjects with elevated CRP was higher in those with early COPD, but CRP added no relevant diagnostic information above symptoms and signs.
In subjects presenting with persistent cough, the CRP level has no added value for detection of early COPD.