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Lung. 2006 May-Jun;184(3):151-7.

Does the inclusion of wheeze detection as an outcome measure affect the interpretation of methacholine challenge tests? A study in workers at risk of occupational asthma.

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  • 1Institute National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, INSERM ERI 11, 54505, Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, France. abraham.bohadana@nancy.inserm.fr


Methacholine challenge testing (MCT) is widely used to assess airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). Traditionally, a 20% or greater decline in forced expiratory volume in 1 (FEV(1)) is the primary outcome measure. We examined whether the inclusion of wheeze detection as outcome measure influenced the categorical interpretation of MCT in workers at risk of occupational asthma (OA). We examined 28 occupationally exposed smokers with asthma-like symptoms (SympAsth), 22 asymptomatic, occupationally exposed smokers (Symp0), and 30 nonexposed, asymptomatic controls (Ctrl). MCT was done using an abbreviated technique. Spirometry and tracheal wheezes were recorded using a computerized system. MCT was considered either positive or negative using three outcome measures separately: (1) > or = 20% fall in FEV(1) (MCT("FEV1")); (2) wheeze appearance (MCT("Wheeze")); and (3) whichever among the two was present (MCT("FEV1Wheeze")). The proportion of reactors in each group were, by outcome measure, as follows: MCT("FEV1"): Ctrl = 2 (6.7%), Symp0 = 6 (27.3%), SympAsth = l2 (42.8%) (chi(2) = 10.2; p = 0.006); MCT("Wheeze"): Ctrl = 1 (3.3%), Symp0 = 4 (18.2%), SympAsth = 13 (46.4%) (chi(2) = l5.7; p = 0.001); MCT("FEV1Wheeze") Ctrl = 2 (6.7%), Symp0 = 7 (31.8%), SympAsth = 18 (64.3%) (chi(2) = 21.5; p = 0.001). Overall, including wheeze detection increased the proportion of "reactors" detected by spirometry by 30% (27 reactors vs. 20). This increase reached 50% (18 vs. 12) among workers with asthma like symptoms. In summary, the inclusion of wheeze detection as outcome measure for MCT allowed the recognition as reactors of subjects that otherwise would be "missed" by spirometry. The resulting increase in the number of true positives improved the sensitivity of MCT to detect AHR in occupationally exposed workers at risk of occupational asthma.

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