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Diagnostic guidelines can affect accuracy in COPD cases

Accuracy in diagnosing pulmonary diseases and conditions can be important as Ohio health care providers endeavor to treat their patients. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease afflicts than 27 million residents of the U.S. and more than 210 million individuals around the world. However, recent requests for change in the standards for diagnosing the condition may affect professionals as they treat their patients.

The standard previously used as a guide for determining that a patient was suffering from COPD was fixed based on patient performance during spirometric testing. However, that fixed reading does not account for issues such as a patient's height, gender, or age, all factors that can affect pulmonary health. Because of this, patients might be incorrectly diagnosed with the disease. They could also be deemed to not have the disease when a diagnosis of COPD would be appropriate based on symptoms. The fixed standard was set in 2001 by the Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease, but in 2010, GOLD received requests from numerous experts and organizations to adjust the standard.

Young women are often not diagnosed with COPD when they should be, and older men are often over-diagnosed with the disease. An estimated 13 percent of diagnoses under the old standard are incorrect. Treating a non-existent case of COPD could have negative implications for a patient, including the potential for greater vulnerability to certain other lung diseases. Failing to treat a patient when there is a case of COPD could lead to a further decline in pulmonary health.

Although a health provider's diagnosis based on a previous international standard might not be viewed as medical malpractice, failure to re-evaluate a condition after a significant change in diagnostic practices might be a concern, especially if a patient suffers adverse results. In cases of serious medical errors, litigation might be appropriate to address the negative consequences suffered by a patient.

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