The diagnosis of asthma. Can physiological tests of small airways function help?

Mohammed A Almeshari, James Stockley, Elizabeth Sapey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Asthma is a common, chronic, and heterogeneous disease with a global impact and substantial economic costs. It is also associated with significant mortality and morbidity and the burden of undiagnosed asthma is significant. Asthma can be difficult to diagnose as there is no gold standard test and, while spirometry is central in diagnosing asthma, it may not be sufficient to confirm or exclude the diagnosis. The most commonly reported spirometric measures (forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity assess function in the larger airways. However, small airway dysfunction is highly prevalent in asthma and some studies suggest small airway involvement is one of the earliest disease manifestations. Moreover, there are new inhaled therapies with ultrafine particles that are specifically designed to target the small airways. Potentially, tests of small airways may more accurately diagnose early or mild asthma and assess the response to treatment than spirometry. Furthermore, some assessment techniques do not rely on forced ventilatory manoeuvres and may, therefore, be easier for certain groups to perform. This review discusses the current evidence of small airways tests in asthma and future research that may be needed to further assess their utility.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalChronic Respiratory Disease
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2021


  • Asthma
  • smal airways function
  • diagnosis
  • spirometry
  • Oscillometry


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