Early Evidence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Obscured by Race-Specific Prediction Equations

Elizabeth A. Regan, Melissa E. Lowe, Barry J. Make, Jeffrey L. Curtis, Quan Grace Chen, James L. Crooks, Carla Wilson, Gabriela R. Oates, Robert W. Gregg, Arianne K. Baldomero, Surya P. Bhatt, Alejandro A. Diaz, Panayiotis V. Benos, James K. O'Brien, Kendra A. Young, Gregory L. Kinney, Douglas J. Conrad, Katherine E. Lowe, Dawn L. DeMeo, Amy NonMichael H. Cho, Julia Kallet, Marilyn G. Foreman, Gloria E. Westney, Karin Hoth, Neil R. MacIntyre, Nicola A. Hanania, Amy Wolfe, Hannatu Amaza, Mei Lan Han, Terri H. Beaty, Nadia N. Hansel, Meredith C. McCormack, Aparna Balasubramanian, James D. Crapo, Edwin K. Silverman, Richard Casaburi, Robert A. Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale: The identification of early chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is essential to appropriately counsel patients regarding smoking cessation, provide symptomatic treatment, and eventually develop disease-modifying treatments. Disease severity in COPD is defined using race-specific spirometry equations. These may disadvantage non-White individuals in diagnosis and care. Objectives: Determine the impact of race-specific equations on African American (AA) versus non-Hispanic White individuals. Methods: Cross-sectional analyses of the COPDGene (Genetic Epidemiology of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) cohort were conducted, comparing non-Hispanic White (n = 6,766) and AA (n = 3,366) participants for COPD manifestations. Measurements and Main Results: Spirometric classifications using race-specific, multiethnic, and "race-reversed" prediction equations (NHANES [National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey] and Global Lung Function Initiative "Other" and "Global") were compared, as were respiratory symptoms, 6-minute-walk distance, computed tomography imaging, respiratory exacerbations, and St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire. Application of different prediction equations to the cohort resulted in different classifications by stage, with NHANES and Global Lung Function Initiative race-specific equations being minimally different, but race-reversed equations moving AA participants to more severe stages and especially between the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) stage 0 and preserved ratio impaired spirometry groups. Classification using the established NHANES race-specific equations demonstrated that for each of GOLD stages 1-4, AA participants were younger, had fewer pack-years and more current smoking, but had more exacerbations, shorter 6-minute-walk distance, greater dyspnea, and worse BODE (body mass index, airway obstruction, dyspnea, and exercise capacity) scores and St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire scores. Differences were greatest in GOLD stages 1 and 2. Race-reversed equations reclassified 774 AA participants (43%) from GOLD stage 0 to preserved ratio impaired spirometry. Conclusions: Race-specific equations underestimated disease severity among AA participants. These effects were particularly evident in early disease and may result in late detection of COPD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-69
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory and critical care medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024


  • COPD
  • dyspnea
  • early disease
  • health inequities
  • race-specific spirometry prediction equations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine

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