History of COPD
Physicians have been tracking the symptoms of COPD for around 200 years. Learn the history of the condition and how far treatment has progressed.
Prevalence of COPD today
Estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that COPD is the third most common cause of death in the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO)predicts that COPD will be the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. As of 2014, many as 15.7 million in the United States reported they have COPD, according to the CDC.
Early history of COPD
COPD is likely not a new condition. In the past, physicians may have used different terms to describe what we now know as COPD. In 1679, Swiss physician Théophile Bonet referred to “voluminous lungs.” In 1769, Italian anatomist Giovanni Morgagni reported 19 cases of “turgid” lungs.
In 1814, British physician Charles Badham identified chronic bronchitis as a disabling health condition and part of COPD. He was the first person to use the term “catarrh” to describe the ongoing cough and excessive mucus that COPD produces.
Causes of COPD
In 1821, the inventor of the stethoscope, physician René Laënnec, recognized emphysema as another component of COPD.
Smoking during the early 1800s wasn’t commonplace, so Laënnec identified environmental factors, like air pollution, and genetic factors as the principal causes of the development of COPD. Today, smoking is one of the leading causes of COPD. Learn more about the effects of smoking.
Invention of the spirometer
In 1846, John Hutchinson invented the spirometer. This device measures vital lung capacity. Robert Tiffeneau, a French pioneer of respiratory medicine, built upon this invention around 100 years later, creating a more complete diagnostic instrument for COPD. The spirometer is still an essential tool in diagnosing COPD today.
In 1959, a gathering of medical professionals called the Ciba Guest Symposium helped define the components that make up the definition and diagnosis of COPD as we know it today.
In the past, COPD was referred to by names such as “chronic airflow obstruction” and “chronic obstructive lung disease.” Dr. William Briscoe is thought to be the first person to use the term “chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder” at the 9thAspen Emphysema Conference in June of 1965.
Smoking and COPD
In 1976, Charles Fletcher, a physician who devoted his life to the study of COPD, linked smoking to the disease in his book “The Natural History of Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema.” Along with his colleagues, Fletcher discovered that stopping smoking could help to slow the progress of COPD and that continuing to smoke would accelerate the progression of the disease.
His work provides the scientific basis for smoking cessation education in people with COPD today.
Until fairly recently, two of the most common treatments for COPD weren’t available. In the past, oxygen therapy and steroid treatment were considered dangerous for people with COPD. Exercise was also discouraged because it was thought to put a strain on the heart.
Inhalers and mechanical ventilators were introduced in the early 1960s. The concept of pulmonary rehabilitation and home care for people with COPD was introduced at the 9th Aspen Emphysema Conference. Read on to learn about other treatments for COPD.