NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Cover of Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction and Asthma

Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction and Asthma

Evidence Reports/Technology Assessments, No. 189

Investigators: , PhD, , BScN, MSc, , PhD, , MSc, , BA, MLIS, , BSc, , BSc, and , MD, MSc, CCFP (EM).

University of Alberta Evidence-based Practice Center, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); .
Report No.: 10-E001

Structured Abstract


The objectives are: (1) to assess diagnostic test characteristics of six alternative index tests compared with the selected reference standard-a standardized exercise challenge test (ECT) in patients with suspected exercise-induced bronchoconstriction or asthma (EIB/EIA); (2) to determine the efficacy of a single prophylactic dose of four pharmacologic and one nonpharmacologic interventions versus placebo to attenuate EIB/EIA in patients with diagnosed EIB/EIA; and (3) to determine if regular daily treatment with short-acting or long-acting beta-agonists (SABA or LABA) causes patients with EIA to develop tachyphylaxis when additional prophylactic doses are used pre-exercise.

Data Sources:

A systematic and comprehensive literature search was conducted in 14 electronic databases (Diagnosis) and the Cochrane Airways Register (Therapy).

Review Methods:

Study selection, quality assessment, and data extraction were conducted independently by two reviewers. The primary outcome was the maximum percent fall in the post-exercise forced expiratory volume in 1 second (percent fall FEV1). The diagnostic threshold for a positive ECT was a percent fall FEV1 of 10 percent or more. Sensitivity (SN) and specificity (SP) were calculated. For therapy, mean differences (MD) in the percent fall FEV1 and 95 percent confidence intervals (CI) (random effects model) were calculated. A positive MD indicates the intervention works better than the control.


For the diagnostic reviews, 5,318 citations yielded 28 relevant studies; for the therapy reviews, 1,634 citations yielded 109 relevant RCTs

Diagnostic test results versus ECT: self-reported history (2 studies) SN=36–89 percent, SP=85–86 percent; methacholine challenge (16 studies) SN=0–100 percent, SP=0–100 percent; sport specific challenges (5 studies) SN=0–100 percent, SP=0–100 percent; eucapnic voluntary hyperpnea (7 studies) SN=25–90 percent, SP=0–71 percent; free running asthma screening test (3 studies) SN=60–67 percent, SP=47–67 percent; mannitol (3 studies) SN=58–96 percent, SP=65–78 percent. All SN and SP calculations indicated substantial heterogeneity that could not be explained by sensitivity or subgroup analyses.

Therapy results: SABA offered greater protection than mast cell stabilizers (MCS) (12 studies); MD=6.8 (95 percent CI: 4.5, 9.2) but combining them offered no additional benefit; SABA versus MCS plus SABA (5 studies) MD=1.3 (95 percent CI: −6.3, 8.9). Leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRA), MCS, ipratropium bromide, and interval warmup routines provided statistically significant attenuation of EIA when compared with placebo; inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and other warmup routines did not. Single-dose intervention versus placebo results are: LTRA (9 studies) MD=8.9 (95 percent CI: 6.9, 11.0); MCS (nedocromil sodium) (17 studies) MD=15.6 (95 percent CI: 13.2, 18.2); interval warmup versus no warmup (4 studies) MD=10.6 (95 percent CI: 6.5, 14.7); ICS (4 studies) MD=5.0 (95 percent CI: 0.0, 9.9); continuous low intensity warmup versus no warmup (3 studies) MD=12.6 (95 percent CI: −1.5, 26.7); continuous high intensity warmup versus no warmup (2 studies) MD=9.8 (95 percent CI: −6.4, 26.0).

After daily LABA (salmeterol) use for 3 to 4 weeks (4 studies), the percent fall FEV1 following an ECT at 2 and 4 weeks was greater than at day 1 in the LABA arm indicating that tachyphylaxis to prophylactic LABA use occurred. Daily SABA use for 1 week (1 study) also indicated development of tachyphylaxis. However, both LABA and SABA continued to have an attenuating effect on EIA.


Given the small number of studies comparing EIB/EIA diagnostic tests, the heterogeneity of the study populations, and the varied study methodologies, there is no clear evidence that any of the index tests are a suitable replacement for a standardized ECT to diagnose EIB/EIA in the general population.

All bronchodilator agents and most anti-inflammatory agents when used as pre-treatment are somewhat effective in attenuating the percent fall FEV1 associated with EIA. There is evidence that the protective effect of LABA and SABA decreases with the daily use of these drugs. There is no evidence of an attenuating benefit following single-dose pre-treatment with ICS. There is a role for LTRA and MCS; however, the attenuation appears less than with bronchodilator agents. Finally, pre-exercise interval warmup appears to be effective in attenuating the FEV1 falls associated with EIA.


Revised March 2010.

Prepared for: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.1 Contract No. 290-2007-10021-I. Prepared by: University of Alberta Evidence-based Practice Center, Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Suggested citation:

Dryden DM, Spooner CH, Stickland MK, Vandermeer B, Tjosvold L, Bialy L, Wong K, Rowe BH. Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction and Asthma. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 189 (Prepared by the University of Alberta Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2007-10021-I) AHRQ Publication No. 10-E001. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. January 2010 (Web site posting); revised March 2010.

No investigators have any affiliations or financial involvement (e.g., employment, consultancies, honoraria, stock options, expert testimony, grants or patents received or pending, or royalties) that conflict with material presented in this report.


540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850. www​

Bookshelf ID: NBK44508


Related information

Similar articles in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...