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Eur Respir J. 2007 Oct;30(4):769-81.

Bronchoalveolar lavage, sputum and exhaled clinically relevant inflammatory markers: values in healthy adults.

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Division of Pneumology, Fondazione Salvatore Maugeri, IRCCS, Via Revislate 13, 28010, Veruno, Italy.


Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), induced sputum and exhaled breath markers (exhaled nitric oxide and exhaled breath condensate) can each provide biological insights into the pathogenesis of respiratory disorders. Some of their biomarkers are also employed in the clinical management of patients with various respiratory diseases. In the clinical context, however, defining normal values and cut-off points is crucial. The aim of the present review is to investigate to what extent the issue of defining normal values in healthy adults has been pursued for the biomarkers with clinical value. The current authors reviewed data from literature that specifically addressed the issue of normal values from healthy adults for the four methodologies. Most studies have been performed for BAL (n = 9), sputum (n = 3) and nitric oxide (n = 3). There are no published studies for breath condensate, none of whose markers yet has clinical value. In healthy adult nonsmokers the cut-off points (mean+2sd) for biomarkers with clinical value were as follows. BAL: 16.7% lymphocytes, 2.3% neutrophils and 1.9% eosinophils; sputum: 7.7 x 10(6).mL(-1) total cell count and 2.2% eosinophils; nitric oxide: 20.2 ppb. The methodologies differ concerning the quantity and characteristics of available reference data. Studies focusing on obtaining reference values from healthy individuals are still required, more evidently for the new, noninvasive methodologies.

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