Severity of Airflow Obstruction in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Proposal for a New Classification

Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease Study investigators

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Current classifications of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) severity are complex and do not grade levels of obstruction. Obstruction is a simpler construct and independent of ethnicity. We constructed an index of obstruction severity based on the FEV1/FVC ratio, with cut-points dividing the Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) study population into four similarly sized strata to those created by the GOLD criteria that uses FEV1. We measured the agreement between classifications and the validity of the FEV1-based classification in identifying the level of obstruction as defined by the new groupings. We compared the strengths of association of each classification with quality of life (QoL), MRC dyspnoea score and the self-reported exacerbation rate. Agreement between classifications was only fair. FEV1-based criteria for moderate COPD identified only 79% of those with moderate obstruction and misclassified half of the participants with mild obstruction as having more severe COPD. Both scales were equally strongly associated with QoL, exertional dyspnoea and respiratory exacerbations. Severity assessed using the FEV1/FVC ratio is only in moderate agreement with the severity assessed using FEV1 but is equally strongly associated with other outcomes. Severity assessed using the FEV1/FVC ratio is likely to be independent of ethnicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalCOPD: Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
StateAccepted/In press - Aug 10 2017



  • Epidemiological studies
  • GOLD classification
  • method comparison
  • spirometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine

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