NuvoAir enables early diagnosis globally - Learnings from the South African COPD Foundation

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In February 2019, the COPD foundation in South Africa conducted a local screening study with 20 adults using the NuvoAir technology. These participants ranged from fitness fanatics to senior citizens. The screening was being performed at a farmers market and was offered to any visitor who was interested in their own lung health.

Within only a time period of 3 hours, 20 individuals underwent a full spirometry test on site. The tests were administered by the COPD Foundation team who also collected additional parameters from the participating individuals.

While the initiative was comparably small, it underlines some important findings for screening initiatives:

  1. Screening can be performed with comparably simple means by personnel without a doctoral education.
  2. Full spirometry testing (incl. measuring Forced Vital Capacity, FVC) was possible on-site. In many instances, screening sites only perform PEF plus FEV1 measurements and then send individuals with abnormalities to special centres who then perform full spirometry tests. >80% of individuals often don’t show up for the second checkup.
  3. Above ten percent of individuals tested showed strong signs of COPD (i.e. a FEV1/FVC ratio of <70%). This is in line with the global disease prevalence and supports the fact that screening can be a good tool to fight strikingly high level of underdiagnosis as COPD Foundation suggests in this study.

Beyond these observations, it was interesting to see that two individuals with an impaired lung function were not aware of their condition. If treated correctly, early diagnosis can lead to better health outcomes in the long run. Hence, screening can help to contribute to better health of individuals and lower economic costs of care due to early intervention.

Let’s have a look at the results of four participants that stood out during the 3 hours initiative:

Participant 1: The study found that this participant had indications of severe COPD at Stage 4 (GOLD). They had a FEV1/FVC ratio of 37%. Due to no prior diagnosis, the patient had yet to receive treatment.

Participant  2: This individual had less severe readings at an FEV1/FVC ratio of 59%, and an oxygen saturation reading at rest of 88%. This participant was unaware of the fact they could potentially have a lung problem and was then referred to a pulmonologist for further examination.

Participant 3: Unlike the others, this individual was an ex-smoker and had 35% of his right lung removed. He made an effort to maintain a better quality of life through regular exercise and had a FEV1/FVC ratio of 80%.

Participant 4: Despite being hospitalized for emphysema, this individual decided to continue smoking. His FEV1/FVC ratio was 80%, had an FEV1% of 55%.

The COPD Foundation will continue to remain in contact with these individuals as requested and two of them have decided to join to the COPD support group. The foundation will also increase the screening efforts using NuvoAir spirometers, especially for workers in South African mines.

NuvoAir is supporting screening initiatives all around the world. Reach out if you wish to set up such an initiative in your country and as an individual (especially with a smoking background), don’t be afraid to get your lungs tested. COPD is a chronic and progressive disease and modern medication and therapy can slow the deterioration significantly. Make it a priority to check your lungs if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath during simple activities
  • Pain when breathing
  • Dizziness with a change in activity
  • A persistent cough
  • Wheezing with exercise
  • Cough associated with exercising
  • Pain in the airway (the path air follows to get into and out of the lungs)