Race Adjustment of Pulmonary Function Tests in the Diagnosis and Management of COPD: A Scoping Review

Sean Richard Davidson, Muhammed Y. Idris, Christopher S. Awad, Marshaleen Henriques King, Gloria E. Westney, Mario Ponce, Anny D. Rodriguez, Kim L. Lipsey, Eric L. Flenaugh, Marilyn G. Foreman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Aim: Increasing evidence suggests that the inclusion of self-identified race in clinical decision algorithms may perpetuate long-standing inequities. Until recently, most pulmonary function tests utilized separate reference equations that are race/ethnicity based. Purpose: We assess the magnitude and scope of the available literature on the negative impact of race-based pulmonary function prediction equations on relevant outcomes in African Americans with COPD. Methods: We performed a scoping review utilizing an English language search on PubMed/Medline, Embase, Scopus, and Web of Science in September 2022 and updated it in December 2023. We searched for publications regarding the effect of race-specific vs race-neutral, race-free, or race-reversed lung function testing algorithms on the diagnosis of COPD and COPD-related physiologic and functional measures. Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) guidelines were utilized for this scoping review. Eligibility criteria: The search was restricted to adults with COPD. We excluded publications on other lung disorders, non-English language publications, or studies that did not include African Americans. The search identified publications. Ultimately, six peer-reviewed publications and four conference abstracts were selected for this review. Results: Removal of race from lung function prediction equations often had opposite effects in African Americans and Whites, specifically regarding the severity of lung function impairment. Symptoms and objective findings were better aligned when race-specific reference values were not used. Race-neutral prediction algorithms uniformly resulted in reclassifying severity in the African Americans studied. Conclusion: The limited literature does not support the use of race-based lung function prediction equations. However, this assertion does not provide guidance for every specific clinical situation. For African Americans with COPD, the use of race-based prediction equations appears to fall short in enhancing diagnostic accuracy, classifying severity of impairment, or predicting subsequent clinical events. We do not have information comparing race-neutral vs race-based algorithms on prediction of progression of COPD. We conclude that the elimination of race-based reference values potentially reduces underestimation of disease severity in African Americans with COPD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-980
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of COPD
StatePublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • African Americans
  • lung function prediction equations
  • lung function tests


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