How do patients conceptualize chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?

R. E. Goldman, L. Mennillo, P. Stebbins, D. R. Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of death in the United States, yet even at risk or diagnosed patients misunderstand COPD and its consequences for their quality of life and mortality. This study explored how patients conceptualize the causes, symptoms, consequences, treatment, and risk for developing COPD. The study consisted of six focus groups: 39 participants who were adults > 40 and current smoker or have COPD symptoms, family history, or exposures. Although many participants had some familiarity with the breathing, lung function, physical, emotional, and social consequences of COPD, confusion and misunderstanding prevailed. Few knew that COPD, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema are synonymous. Some participants claimed that they "only" had bronchitis and/or emphysema and not COPD. Some participants described behavioral adaptations to decrease symptom impact and others expressed strong interest in learning how to increase daily functioning. Insufficient knowledge and persisting misconceptions about COPD can prevent patients from accessing life-enhancing strategies. Patients can benefit from (1) providers clarifying COPD's connection to chronic bronchitis and emphysema to aid them in recognizing the need for mitigating action; (2) encouraging smoking cessation, specifically to stem worsening of disease; and (3) explaining lifestyle adaptations for easing daily life despite decreased lung function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-255
Number of pages11
JournalChronic Respiratory Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • COPD
  • patient education needs
  • patient perspective
  • primary care
  • qualitative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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