Study objectives: The nonproportional Venn diagram of obstructive lung disease (OLD) produced for the 1995 American Thoracic Society guidelines has not been quantified. We aim to quantify the proportion of the general population with OLD and the intersections of physician-diagnosed asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema in the United States and the United Kingdom, and to examine the relationship to obstructive spirometry.
Design and participants: We analyzed data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination (NHANES) III survey (1988 to 1994) and the UK General Practice Research Database for the year 1998.
Results: The areas of intersection among the three OLD conditions produced seven mutually exclusive disease groups. The asthma-only group was the largest proportion of OLD patients, accounting for 50.3% and 79.4% of all OLD patients in the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively, and decreased with increasing age. Overall, 17% and 19% of OLD patients in the United States and in the United Kingdom, respectively, reported more than one OLD condition, and this percentage increased with age. According to the spirometry data from NHANES III, only 37.4% of emphysema-only patients had objective airflow obstruction. The prevalence of airflow obstruction was significantly higher among participants with combinations of emphysema and chronic bronchitis (57.7%), with emphysema and asthma (51.9%), and with all three OLD diseases concomitantly (52.0%).
Conclusion: Concomitant diagnosis of asthma, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema is common among OLD patients from the general population, particularly in adults aged ≥ 50 years.