Physiological tests of small airways function in diagnosing asthma: a systematic review.

Almeshari, Mohammed A, Alobaidi, Nowaf Y, Edgar, Ross G, Stockley, James A and Sapey, Elizabeth (2020) Physiological tests of small airways function in diagnosing asthma: a systematic review. BMJ open respiratory research, 7 (1). ISSN 2052-4439. Available through UHB Open Athens

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Asthma is a common, heterogeneous disease that is characterised by chronic airway inflammation and variable expiratory airflow limitation. Current guidelines use spirometric measures for asthma assessment. This systematic review aimed to assess whether the most commonly reported tests of small airways function could contribute to the diagnosis of asthma.


Standard systematic review methodology was used, and a range of electronic databases was searched (Embase, MEDLINE, CINAHL, CENTRAL, Web of Science, DARE). Studies that included physiological tests of small airways function to diagnose asthma in adults were included, with no restrictions on language or date. The risk of bias and quality assessment tools used were Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality tool for cross-sectional studies and Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies 2 for diagnostic test accuracy (DTA) studies.


7072 studies were identified and 10 studies met review criteria. 7 included oscillation techniques and 5 included maximal mid-expiratory flow (MMEF). Studies were small and of variable quality. In oscillometry, total resistance (R5) and reactance at 5 Hz (X5) was altered in asthma compared with healthy controls. The percentage predicted of MMEF was lower in patients with asthma compared with controls in all studies and lower than the % predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 s. In DTA of oscillometry, R5 showed a sensitivity between 69% and 72% and specificity between 61% and 86%.


There were differences in the results of physiological tests of small airway function in patients with asthma compared with controls. However, studies are small and heterogeneous. Further studies are needed to assess the effectiveness of these tests on a larger scale, including studies to determine which test methodology is the most useful in asthma.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Available through UHB Open Athens
Subjects: WF Respiratory system. Respiratory medicine
Divisions: Planned IP Care > Respiratory Medicine
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Beth Connors
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2021 15:14
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2021 15:14

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