Medical imaging alone may not be enough to diagnose COPD, according to a study in Annals of the American Thoracic Society, as reported in Medical Xpress.

A UK study of patients participating in low-dose CT lung cancer screening highlights the importance of spirometry (breathing tests) in the assessment of possible chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and demonstrates that over-reliance on radiological changes alone may result in detection of clinically insignificant disease.

“Thirty-two percent of participants with airflow obstruction who did not report a prior diagnosis of COPD had no emphysema on their CT scan, while, conversely, individuals with emphysema did not always have airflow obstruction,” said [Mamta Ruparel, MRCP, of the Lungs for Living Research Centre, who helped lead the COPD study.] “Based on our findings, reliance on CT alone to diagnose COPD risks missing individuals who may actually have this condition, while over-diagnosing others. Since individuals at risk for lung cancer are also at risk for COPD, we recommend including spirometry in low-dose CT lung cancer screening programs, in order to assist in making accurate diagnoses.”

Read more at Medical XPress and find the study at Annals of the American Thoracic Society.