Nicola A. Hanania, M.D., M.S.; Gulshan Sharma, M.D., M.P.H.; Amir Sharafkhaneh, M.D., Ph.D.


Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2010;31(5):596-606. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


The elderly are especially prone to the adverse health effects of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a common disorder in that population. While the prevalence and morbidity of COPD in the elderly are high, it is often undiagnosed and thus undertreated. The diagnosis of COPD is primarily based on the physiological documentation of airflow limitation using spirometry. However, several controversies exist as to the range of predicted normal values for these measurements in the elderly population, and the clinical presentation of COPD in the elderly may be complicated by the presence of several comorbidities. Many nonpharmcological and pharmacological interventions are available for managing COPD. However, management of COPD in the elderly population may be challenged by the "polypharmacy" of medications that these patients often take, which can interfere with compliance with therapy. Additionally, the elderly often suffer from physical or cognitive disabilities that can prevent compliance with prescribed medications. Lastly, adverse effects from medications prescribed for treatment of COPD may be more pervasive in elderly patients.


Respiratory disorders in the elderly are common. Unfortunately, they are often underdiagnosed and undertreated for several reasons. COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that usually becomes clinically apparent later in life, and it can lead to significant morbidity and premature death. This review will discuss the impact of COPD on the elderly and review its diagnostic and management challenges.


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