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Rev Alerg Mex. 2019 Jul-Sep;66(3):308-313. doi: 10.29262/ram.v66i3.630.

[Peak expiratory flow vs. spirometry for the diagnosis of asthma in adults].

[Article in Spanish; Abstract available in Spanish from the publisher]

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Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, Centro Médico Nacional Siglo XXI, Hospital de Especialidades, Ciudad de México, México.


in English, Spanish


The diagnosis of asthma is confirmed with a spirometry: FEV1 ratio (forced expiratory volume in one second)/FVC (forced vital capacity) <80% with reversibility (FEV1 >12% or 200 mL) after using salbutamol. The peak expiratory flow is cheap and easy to use; it measures the forced expiratory flow, of which reversibility > 20% suggests asthma.


To know the sensitivity, specificity, and the positive and negative predictive values of the flowmeter.


A cross-sectional, observational, comparative study. Individuals aged >18 years without contraindications for spirometry were included. They underwent spirometry and peak expiratory flow, and the ACT (Asthma Control Test) questionnaire was applied to them. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value and negative predictive value of the flowmetry were calculated. ROC curve was carried out in order to know the cut-off point of greater sensitivity and specificity.


Of 150 patients, 66% were male; the median age was 38 years. According to the guidelines of GINA 2018 (Global Initiative for Asthma); 58.7% were controlled. The sensitivity of the peak expiratory flow was 47%, and the specificity was 87%, with a positive predictive value of 54.8% and a negative predictive value of 84%. The peak expiratory flow showed higher specificity with FEV1 <59%. The cut-off point of greater sensitivity and specificity was a reversibility of 8%, with an area under the curve of 0.70.


The flowmeter has got greater sensitivity in airway obstructions; it is useful when a spirometer is not available.


Asthma; Peak expiratory flow; Spirometry


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