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      Drop in lung function during asthma and COPD exacerbations – can it be assessed without spirometry?

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          When assessing patients with exacerbation of asthma or COPD, it may be useful to know the drop in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV 1) compared with stable state, in particular when considering treatment with oral corticosteroids. The objective of the study was to identify indicators of drop in FEV 1 during exacerbations.


          In this prospective multicenter study from primary care, patients diagnosed with asthma or COPD were examined at stable state and during exacerbations the following year. Symptoms, chest findings, and pulse oximetry were recorded, and spirometry was performed. A fixed drop in FEV 1 (10% and ≥200 mL) and percentage change in FEV 1 were outcomes when possible indicators were evaluated.


          Three hundred and eighty patients attended baseline examination, and 88 with a subsequent exacerbation were included in the analysis. Thirty (34%) had a significant drop in FEV 1 (10% and 200 mL). Increased wheezing was the only symptom associated with this drop with a likelihood ratio of 6.4 (95% confidence interval, 1.9–21.7). Crackles and any new auscultation finding were also associated with a significant drop in FEV 1, as was a ≥2% drop in oxygen saturation (SpO 2) to ≤92% in the subgroup diagnosed with COPD. Very bothersome wheezing and severe decrease in SpO 2 were also very strong predictors of change in FEV 1 in linear regression adjusted for age, gender, and baseline FEV 1% predicted.


          Increased wheezing, as experienced by the patient, and a decreased SpO 2 value strongly indicated a drop in lung function during asthma and COPD exacerbations and should probably be taken into account when treatment with oral corticosteroids is considered.

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          Most cited references 18

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          Recent asthma exacerbations: a key predictor of future exacerbations.

          The objective of this analysis was to investigate whether patients with severe or difficult-to-treat asthma who experienced recent severe asthma exacerbations are at increased risk of future asthma exacerbations. We conducted a 1.5-year prospective analysis of 2780 patients 12 > or =years of age from The Epidemiology and Natural History of Asthma: Outcomes and Treatment Regimens study. Severe exacerbations were defined as either an asthma-related emergency department visit or night of hospitalization in the 3 months prior to study visit; a secondary analysis assessed prior steroid bursts as an independent predictor and outcome. Potential confounding was assessed by statistical adjustment for demographic and clinical factors, as well as asthma severity and asthma control. Compared with patients without a recent severe exacerbation, patients with a recent exacerbation were at increased risk of future exacerbation (odds ratio=6.33; 95% CI 4.57, 8.76), even after adjustment for demographics and clinical factors (odds ratio=3.77; 95% CI 2.62, 5.43), asthma severity (physician-assessed: odds ratio=5.62; 95% CI 4.03, 7.83), National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (odds ratio=5.07; 95% CI 3.62, 7.11), Global Initiative for Asthma (odds ratio=5.32; 95% CI 3.80, 7.47), and asthma control (odds ratio=3.90; 95% CI 2.77, 5.50). This analysis suggests that recent severe asthma exacerbations are a strong independent factor predicting future exacerbations and, as such, should be considered as part of the clinical assessment of patients with severe or difficult-to-treat asthma.
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            Forced spirometry reference values for Norwegian adults: the Bronchial Obstruction in Nord-Trøndelag Study.

            The purpose of this study was to develop new prediction equations for flow/volume spirometry parameters in asymptomatic, never-smoking adults in Norway, and to assess any differences of these parameters when applying the new and most commonly used equation sets. Flow/volume spirometry was measured according to the American Thoracic Society criteria in 2,792 subjects aged > or = 20 yrs, randomly selected from participants in the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study. Ever-smokers and subjects with respiratory symptoms and/or diseases reported in this questionnaire were excluded. A total of 546 females and 362 males met the inclusion criteria and were included in the analyses. Most lung function variables were nonlinear by age and had to be transformed. After a plateau in younger adults, the variables declined by age. The reference values for forced expiratory volume in one second and forced vital capacity from the present study, were higher than those given by prediction equations from the European Community for Coal and Steel, but in closer agreement with later studies from Europe, Australia and the USA. Healthcare providers should be encouraged to reconsider their choice of prediction equations of spirometry in order to improve management of obstructive lung diseases.
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              Asthma-COPD Overlap.

               Peter Barnes (2016)

                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                08 December 2016
                : 11
                : 3145-3152
                [1 ]General Practice Research Unit, Department of Community Medicine, UIT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway
                [2 ]Department of Family Medicine, CAPHRI, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Hasse Melbye, General Practice Research Unit, Department of Community Medicine, MH Building, UIT The Arctic University of Norway, 9037 Tromsø, Norway, Tel +47 77 9521 3200, Email hasse.melbye@
                © 2016 Melbye et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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