COPD prevalence in a random population survey: A matter of definition

P. Shirtcliffe, M. Weatherall, S. Marsh, J. Travers, A. Hansell, A. McNaughton, S. Aldington, H. Muellerova, Richard Beasley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)


A recent American Thoracic Society and European Respiratory Society Joint Task Force report recommends using a lower limit of normal (LLN) of forced expiratory volume in one second/forced vital capacity as opposed to a fixed ratio of <0.7 to diagnose airflow obstruction, in order to reduce false positive diagnoses of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as defined by the Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). To date, there is no reliable spirometry-based prevalence data for COPD in New Zealand and the effect of different definitions of airflow obstruction based on post-bronchodilator spirometry is not known. Detailed written questionnaires, full pulmonary function tests (including pre- and post-bronchodilator flow-volume loops) and atopy testing were completed in 749 subjects recruited from a random population sample. The GOLD-defined, age-adjusted prevalence (95% confidence interval) for adults aged ≥40 yrs was 14.2 (11.0-17.0)% compared with an LLN-defined, age-adjusted, post-bronchodilator prevalence in the same group of 9.0 (6.7-11.3)%. The prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease varied markedly depending on the definition used. Further research using longitudinal rather than cross-sectional data will help decide the preferred approach in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease prevalence surveys.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-239
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Lower limit of normal
  • Prevalence


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