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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease management makes strides, but diagnosis still lags

Posted Sep 10 2009 10:44pm

By Michael Gibbons

By Michael Gibbons

Surprised to hear that only one in five smokers suffers some loss of lung function? You should be. That oft-cited statistic just isn’t true, according to Dennis E. Doherty, MD. Forty percent to nearly half have some degree of impairment.

A larger circle of lung damage than previously thought helps explain why chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is crawling up the ladder of lethal diseases and now ranks fourth worldwide, even though many people still do not recognize it by name.

Still, there is much to be optimistic about in 2009. Medicare has established reimbursement codes for smoking cessation counseling. In addition, medications such as beta-agonists and anticholinergics are proving themselves adept at improving lung function and decreasing air trapping.

“Identify COPD earlier, and we can likely improve quality of life,” said Dr. Doherty, a pulmonologist at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and Chandler Medical Center, Lexington. “With smoking cessation, we can slow the rate of future decline in lung function.”

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