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Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology

Are we overlooking persistent small airways dysfunction in community-managed asthma?


PMID 22920073

Abstract

Whether small airways dysfunction persists in patients with asthma receiving standard community treatment is unknown. Impulse oscillometry (IOS) is a sensitive measure of small airways function. To assess the degree of small airways dysfunction in a cross-section of patients with community-managed asthma. We analyzed primary care referral data from patients with persistent asthma (n = 378) receiving standard community therapy, screened using spirometry and IOS. We compared patients by British Thoracic Society asthma treatment step (2-4). Step 2 patients were not different from step 3 patients receiving long-acting beta-agonist (LABA). Step 4 patients differed from step 2 by: higher inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) dose (P < .0001); lower forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV(1)%; P = .02) and forced mid-expiratory flow (FEF(25-75%); P = .001); higher frequency of resonance (F(res); P = .02) and peripheral airway resistance (R5-R20; P = .006); whereas for steps 3 vs 4 there were differences in F(res) (P < .05) and R5-R20 (P = .006). There were high proportions of abnormality for R5-R20 (>0.03 kPa/L/s) at steps 2, 3, and 4, respectively: 64.6%, 63.5%, and 69.9%. Step 2 patients receiving extra-fine particle ICS demonstrated lower total airway resistance at 5Hz (R5) vs patients receiving standard ICS (124.1% vs 138.3%, P < .05), with no difference in FEV(1). At step 4, R5 remained elevated at 141.3% despite concomitant LABA, with only 2.4% using extra-fine ICS. Persistent small airways dysfunction occurs despite treatment at steps 2 through 4 of current asthma guidelines. Extra-fine ICS may reduce airway resistance at step 2. Prospective studies with extra-fine ICS ± LABA at steps 2 through 4 are required to discern whether improving small airways function might result in long-term improved control.