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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

AARC Keynote: Unmet Needs of COPD Patients

Published November 5, 2011 9:48 PM by test test
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For Grace Anne Dorney Koppel, the world changed on Sept. 25, 2001. That's the day her doctor advised her to make end-of-life preparations after diagnosing her with stage 4, very severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 

The diagnosis was a complete shock. "In August 2001, I thought I was in very good health based on the results of my very incomplete physical," said Dorney Koppel, wife of famed newscaster Ted Koppel. Like many Americans, her annual physical exam did not include spirometry screening.

Today in the keynote address at the AARC's 57th International Respiratory Convention and Exhibition in Tampa, Fl, she urged respiratory therapists to build evidence to support early COPD screenings. Because patients are not routinely screened for COPD until they start exhibiting the symptoms of cough, wheezing, and breathlessness, "too many of Americans are unaware of COPD," said Dorney Koppel. While spirometry is inexpensive and easy to perform, many clinicians are unaware of the disease's reversibility and treatment options. Research is needed to quantify and better explain it.

Studies also are needed to identify the underlying genetic components that lead 20 percent of smokers to develop COPD, while 80 percent remain disease-free. Finding that phenotype could unlock new treatments and new ways of measuring the disease progress and reversibility.

"From this impatient patient's perspective-and yes, my pulmonologist has called me that-we are not yet meeting the needs of the 12 million people who have COPD and the 12 million who have COPD and don't know it," said Dorney Koppel.

But respiratory therapists on the front lines of care can make more of a difference than any other medical professional out there, she said. "(You can) dispense courage to those who have lung disease that it is not yet curable, but is treatable."

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