Fast Five Quiz: Differential Diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Zab Mosenifar, MD


February 04, 2022

The formal diagnosis of COPD is made with spirometry, with an FEV1/FVC of 0.70, confirming the persistence of airflow limitation. The addition of arterial blood gas analysis will further provide the best clues as to the acuteness and severity of disease. Lung mechanics and gas exchange worsen with exacerbations as well as with disease progression.

ECG is useful in ruling out cardiac origin of symptoms. Although many patients with COPD experience coexisting cardiac issues and respiratory symptoms, which can be due to cardiac decompression, ECG is an additional tool in ruling out other comorbidities but not a primary diagnostic tool in determining COPD.

Chest radiography (both frontal and lateral views) can be helpful in supporting a diagnosis of COPD and is also useful in understanding the manifestations of disease, as well as helping to rule out other differential diagnoses (eg, cardiac failure and lung cancer).

Pulse oximetry is used for fast assessment of oxygen saturation in an emergency setting and is often used as a precursor for arterial blood gas analysis.

Learn more about the diagnosis of COPD.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.