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Misdiagnosing COPD and asthma

New York readers may be surprised to learn that up to 50 percent of patients are misdiagnosed with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to studies. The problem disproportionately affects African Americans and other minority populations.

National clinical guidelines recommend using a spirometry test to help diagnose patients with asthma and COPD. The test assesses lung function by measuring how much and how fast patients can blow air from their lungs. However, experts say many patients are diagnosed with asthma and COPD without having received the test. This is particularly true of people from minority and underserved populations. One study showed that up to 65 percent of those diagnosed with COPD without a spirometry test were found not to have the disease after undergoing the screening.

Individuals misdiagnosed with asthma or COPD could be harmed by taking unnecessary medication, which also exposes them to needless side effects and complications. Another danger is that their real medical condition could be left untreated. In order to reduce the rate of misdiagnosis of asthma and COPD, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has issued a $1.5 million grant to study the role of spirometry testing in the diagnosis process. The clinical trial will last three years and enroll 400 adults diagnosed with asthma and/or COPD.

New York patients who have been the victims of a misdiagnosis often are put through unnecessary treatment regimens while their actual diseased continues to spread, resulting in a worsened condition. People who have been harmed in such a manner may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney in order to see what rights they may have.

Source: Contemporary Clinic, "Diagnostic Error in Asthma and COPD Patients," Lauren Santye, Oct. 24, 2016

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