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Drop in lung function during asthma and COPD exacerbations – can it be assessed without spirometry?

Authors Melbye H, Al-ani S, Spigt M

Received 27 September 2016

Accepted for publication 3 November 2016

Published 8 December 2016 Volume 2016:11(1) Pages 3145—3152


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Russell

Hasse Melbye,1 Salwan Al-ani,1 Mark Spigt1,2

1General Practice Research Unit, Department of Community Medicine, UIT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway; 2Department of Family Medicine, CAPHRI, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands

Background: When assessing patients with exacerbation of asthma or COPD, it may be useful to know the drop in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) compared with stable state, in particular when considering treatment with oral corticosteroids. The objective of the study was to identify indicators of drop in FEV1 during exacerbations.
Methods: In this prospective multicenter study from primary care, patients diagnosed with asthma or COPD were examined at stable state and during exacerbations the following year. Symptoms, chest findings, and pulse oximetry were recorded, and spirometry was performed. A fixed drop in FEV1 (10% and ≥200 mL) and percentage change in FEV1 were outcomes when possible indicators were evaluated.
Results: Three hundred and eighty patients attended baseline examination, and 88 with a subsequent exacerbation were included in the analysis. Thirty (34%) had a significant drop in FEV1 (10% and 200 mL). Increased wheezing was the only symptom associated with this drop with a likelihood ratio of 6.4 (95% confidence interval, 1.9–21.7). Crackles and any new ausculta­tion finding were also associated with a significant drop in FEV1, as was a ≥2% drop in oxygen saturation (SpO2) to ≤92% in the subgroup diagnosed with COPD. Very bothersome wheezing and severe decrease in SpO2 were also very strong predictors of change in FEV1 in linear regression adjusted for age, gender, and baseline FEV1% predicted.
Conclusion: Increased wheezing, as experienced by the patient, and a decreased SpO2 value strongly indicated a drop in lung function during asthma and COPD exacerbations and should probably be taken into account when treatment with oral corticosteroids is considered.

Keywords: bronchial obstruction, systemic corticosteroids, diagnostic tests, primary care

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