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Open Access Research article

Variability of the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease key epidemiological data in Europe: systematic review

Kokuvi Atsou12*, Christos Chouaid123 and Gilles Hejblum124

Author Affiliations

1 INSERM, U707, F-75012 Paris, France

2 UPMC, Université de Paris 06, UMR S 707, F-75012 Paris, France

3 AP-HP, Hôpital Saint Antoine, Service de Pneumologie, F-75012 Paris, France

4 AP-HP, Hôpital Saint Antoine, Unité de Santé Publique, F-75012 Paris, France

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BMC Medicine 2011, 9:7  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-7

Published: 18 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is predicted to become a major cause of death worldwide. Studies on the variability in the estimates of key epidemiological parameters of COPD may contribute to better assessment of the burden of this disease and to helpful guidance for future research and public policies. In the present study, we examined differences in the main epidemiological characteristics of COPD derived from studies across countries of the European Union, focusing on prevalence, severity, frequency of exacerbations and mortality, as well as on differences between the studies' methods.

Methods

This systematic review was based on a search for the relevant literature in the Science Citation Index database via the Web of Science and on COPD mortality rates issued from national statistics. Analysis was finally based on 65 articles and Eurostat COPD mortality data for 21 European countries.

Results

Epidemiological characteristics of COPD varied widely from country to country. For example, prevalence estimates ranged between 2.1% and 26.1%, depending on the country, the age group and the methods used. Likewise, COPD mortality rates ranged from 7.2 to 36.1 per 105 inhabitants. The methods used to estimate these epidemiological parameters were highly variable in terms of the definition of COPD, severity scales, methods of investigation and target populations. Nevertheless, to a large extent, several recent international guidelines or research initiatives, such as GOLD, BOLD or PLATINO, have boosted a substantial standardization of methodology in data collection and have resulted in the availability of more comparable epidemiological estimates across countries. On the basis of such standardization, severity estimates as well as prevalence estimates present much less variation across countries. The contribution of these recent guidelines and initiatives is outlined, as are the problems remaining in arriving at more accurate COPD epidemiological estimates across European countries.

Conclusions

The accuracy of COPD epidemiological parameters is important for guiding decision making with regard to preventive measures, interventions and patient management in various health care systems. Therefore, the recent initiatives for standardizing data collection should be enhanced to result in COPD epidemiological estimates of improved quality. Moreover, establishing international guidelines for reporting research on COPD may also constitute a major contribution.