REVIEW - Diagnosis and monitoring of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

July 2015
Technology Description:
What does the future hold for COPD diagnostic and monitoring technologies?


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lifelong, progressive and incurable disease of the airways that affects more than 1.5 million people in England and Wales. Patients experience shortness of breath and cough, which restricts their daily life, and many also suffer periods when their symptoms get rapidly worse. These ‘exacerbations’ are often due to infection and usually require treatment with antibiotics and corticosteroids, often in hospital. COPD is therefore a significant burden on patients, carers and the NHS.

Currently, the diagnosis of COPD is often delayed, meaning that patients miss out on appropriate care in the early stages of their disease. In addition, COPD exacerbations are usually treated without knowing the specific cause of the exacerbation, which exposes some patients to unnecessary treatments, a particular concern given the increasing development of antibiotic resistance and the potentially significant side effects of corticosteroids. In this review, we sought to determine whether any technologies currently in development could address these issues. We identified technologies by searching a wide range of online sources, and then asked clinical experts and patients with COPD to comment on each technology’s level of innovation, likely impact on patients and health services, acceptability to users, and likelihood of adoption by the NHS.