Unrecognized heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in frail elderly detected through a near-home targeted screening strategy

Y. van Mourik, L.C.M. Bertens, M.J.M. Cramer, J.W.J. Lammers, J.B. Reitsma, K.G.M. Moons, A.W. Hoes, F.H. Rutten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Reduced exercise tolerance and dyspnea are common in older people, and heart failure (HF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are the main causes. We want to determine the prevalence of previously unrecognized HF, COPD, and other chronic diseases in frail older people using a near-home targeted screening strategy.

METHODS: Community-dwelling frail persons aged ≥65 years underwent a 2-step screening strategy. First, they received a questionnaire inquiring about dyspnea and exercise tolerance. Those with exercise intolerance and/or dyspnea were invited to visit their primary care physician's office for a screening program, including medical history taking, physical examination, blood tests, electrocardiography, spirometry, and echocardiography. The final diagnosis of every patient was determined by a panel consisting of 3 physicians.

RESULTS: Of the 570 elderly who filled out the questionnaire, 395 (69%) had reduced exercise tolerance or dyspnea. Of these, 389 underwent the screening program: 127 (33.5%, 95% confidence interval, 28.9-38.4%) were newly diagnosed with HF (mainly HF with a preserved ejection fraction [23.5%]), and previously unrecognized COPD was detected in 16.8% (95% confidence interval, 13.4-20.9%). In total, 165 patients (43.9%) received a new diagnosis of either HF, COPD, or both. Other new diagnoses (in 32.7% of the screening program patients) included atrial fibrillation (1.8%), valvular disease (21.4%), (persisting) asthma (3.1%), anemia (12.7%), and thyroid disease (0.6%). No clear explanation for the complaints of 47 patients (12.2%) was found using our strategy.

CONCLUSION: Unrecognized chronic diseases might be detected in community-dwelling frail elderly using a near-home screening strategy that is simple to implement. It remains to be proven, however, whether optimizing treatment of the newly detected diagnoses in this fragile population with multimorbidities and polypharmacy improves quality of life and reduces morbidity and mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-821
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2014


  • Econometric and Statistical Methods: General
  • Geneeskunde(GENK)
  • Medical sciences
  • Bescherming en bevordering van de menselijke gezondheid


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