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New Test Predicts Lung Disease Death Risk

Screen that measures lung inflation will help in COPD treatment

TUESDAY, March 15 , 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A new, noninvasive lung test provides a better assessment of the potential risk of death for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), say Spanish researchers.

COPD -- a disease in which the lungs are damaged, making breathing progressively more difficult -- is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States., according to the National Institutes of Health. The disease is often, but not always, linked to emphysema brought on by smoking.

Now, a new test to measure lung hyperinflation -- where tiny air sacs in the lung fail to deflate -- offers a better independent measure of death risk in these patients, researchers wrote in a study in the latest issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

They measured inspiratory lung capacity in nearly 700 COPD patients in Spain and the United States, then tracked patient outcomes over the next 34 months. Over that time, 183 (27 percent) of the patients died, the researchers report

They found that 71 percent of patients who died scored under 25 percent in resting lung hyperinflation as detected by the new test.

The new test "is an excellent predictor of all-cause and respiratory mortality," and appears to be more accurate than other indicators currently in use, researcher Dr. Ciro Casanova, of the Respiratory Research Institute at the Hospital Universitario la Candelaria in Tenerife, Spain, said in a prepared statement. That's probably because the test provides a direct analysis of functional lung impairment, the researchers said.

Based on their findings, the Spanish team recommend the new test be used to assess all COPD patients.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about COPD.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, March 15, 2005
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