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Make the Diagnosis: Airflow Limitation

Prior Probability

A systematic review identified 32 sources of information from studies done worldwide on the prevalence of obstructive airways disease.13 Nine of the 32 studies used a spirometric reference standard, similar to what is advocated for clinical practice; 8 of these had data that allowed us to compare the overall prevalence and sex-specific prevalence. The summary overall prevalence was 7.1% (95% CI, 5.2%-9.3%). Men (11%; 95% CI, 8.5%-14%) had about twice the rate as women (6%; 95% CI, 3%-10%) (see Table 13-7).

Table 13-7Prior Probability of Obstructive Airways Disease Differs by Sex

Population for Whom Obstructive Airways Disease Should Be Considered

All adults, especially those who smoke and are aged 45 years or older.

Detecting the Likelihood of Obstructive Airways Disease

Table 13-8Likelihood Ratios for Best Single Findings and for Multivariate Models

Reference Standard Tests

Spirometry using the pulmonary laboratories definition for the presence of obstructive airways disease.

Original Article: Does the Clinical Examination Predict Airflow Limitation?

Clinical Scenarios—Do These Patients Have Airflow Limitation?

In each of the following cases, the clinician needs to decide whether the patient has airflow limitation. In case 1, a 63-year-old man who has smoked 2 packs of cigarettes per day for the past 47 years presents with decreased exercise tolerance caused by shortness of breath. In case 2, a 35-year-old woman complains of coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath every autumn. In case 3, an 18-year-old man is brought to an emergency department, ...

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