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J Aerosol Med. 2002 Fall;15(3):313-24.

Use of aerosols for bronchial provocation testing in the laboratory: where we have been and where we are going.

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  • 1Department of Respiratory Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, Australia.


Bronchial provocation testing with pharmacological agents that act directly on airway smooth muscle has important limitations. These include the inability to identify exercise-induced asthma (EIA), to differentiate the airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) of airway remodelling from the AHR of active inflammation and to differentiate between doses of steroids. Recent studies show that tests that act indirectly to narrow airways are more sensitive than pharmacological agents for identifying airway inflammation and response to treatment. Adenosine monophosphate (AMP) is an indirect challenge that acts on mast cells to cause release of mediators. Hypertonic saline is another and, since its development in the 1980s, has become widely used in Australia. Hypertonic (4.5%) saline is used to identify those with active asthma, those with EIA and those who wish to enter certain occupations or sports (e.g., diving). The recent development, again in Australia, of a test that uses dry powder mannitol has promise for use in the laboratory, the office, or for testing in the field. AHR to mannitol identifies people with EIA and is an estimate of its severity. The mannitol response is modified by drugs used to prevent EIA, implying that similar mediators are involved. A mannitol test can be used to monitor response to steroids and is more sensitive than histamine for identifying persistent airway hyperresponsiveness in asthmatics well controlled on steroids. These findings suggest that indirect challenges give more useful clinical information about currently active asthma and the response to treatment than direct challenge and they will become more widely used.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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