In the Literature: Research You Need to Know


Clinical question: What are the changes in the updated Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guidelines?

Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) remains a leading cause of death in the U.S. and worldwide. The GOLD guidelines are an international consensus report on COPD diagnosis, management, and prevention, first released in 2001. The 2011 revision to the guidelines was recently published and outlines substantial changes based on updated literature and expert opinion.

Study design: Guidelines based on studies with varying designs.

Setting: Expert panel review of multiple studies from different settings.

Synopsis: While the diagnosis of COPD remains based on a post-bronchodilator fixed ratio of FEV1/FVC <0.70, there is more emphasis on global clinical assessment in the new guidelines. The updated approach describes classifying COPD severity based on risk/symptom frequency using established symptom assessment and the frequency of acute exacerbations of COPD. Instead of five “stages” based on FEV1 measures alone, there are now four "grades" of A through D (A: low risk/fewer symptoms; B: low risk/more symptoms; C: high risk/fewer symptoms; D: high risk/more symptoms) to more easily guide treatment options.

Treatment strategies are also updated, focusing not only on reduction of current symptoms, but also risk of future events. Pharmacologic treatment recommendations include using bronchodilator monotherapy in Group A patients, favoring long-acting over short-acting bronchodilators in Group B patients, prescribing inhaled corticosteroids only in combination with long-acting bronchodilators in Groups C and D patients, and considering newer agents such as phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors in Group D patients.

Non-pharmacologic interventions include ongoing smoking cessation strategies, exercise promotion, treatment of comorbidities, and even public health strategies in pollution control.

Bottom line: The GOLD guidelines have undergone major revisions that provide a more practical approach to classification of COPD based on symptom severity and risk assessment in order to direct providers in evidence-based treatment that addresses both short-term and long-term impact of the disease.

Citation: Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. Global strategy for diagnosis, management, and prevention of COPD. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease website. Accessed Oct. 29, 2012.

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