Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, is increasing worldwide and is projected to be the third leading cause of death in the United States by the year 2020 (1). It affects nearly 16 million Americans, and more than $18 billion is spent annually on medications, physician visits, and hospitalizations. COPD is characterized by chronic airflow obstruction with episodic acute exacerbations, which result in increased morbidity and mortality. Patients hospitalized with exacerbations have an overall mortality rate of 3% to 4%, and up to 24% of patients requiring care in the intensive care unit die (2). Since forced expiratory volume in 1 second correlates closely with life expectancy and exacerbation rate, early diagnosis (through spirometric testing) and prevention may reduce acute exacerbations and health care costs.
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