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Bronchodilator reversibility as a diagnostic test for adult asthma: findings from the population-based Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study


Tan, DJ and Lodge, CJ and Lowe, AJ and Bui, DS and Bowatte, G and Johns, DP and Hamilton, GS and Thomas, PS and Abramson, MJ and Walters, EH and Perret, JL and Dharmage, SC, Bronchodilator reversibility as a diagnostic test for adult asthma: findings from the population-based Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study, Erj Open Research, 7, (1) pp. 1-10. ISSN 2312-0541 (2021) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2021 ERS. This article is open access and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Licence 4.0

DOI: doi:10.1183/23120541.00042-2020


Bronchodilator reversibility (BDR) is often used as a diagnostic test for adult asthma. However, there has been limited assessment of its diagnostic utility. We aimed to determine the discriminatory accuracy of common BDR cut-offs in the context of current asthma and asthma-COPD overlap (ACO) in a middle-aged community sample. The Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study is a population-based cohort first studied in 1968 (n=8583). In 2012, participants completed respiratory questionnaires and spirometry (n=3609; mean age 53 years). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were fitted for current asthma and ACO using continuous BDR measurements. Diagnostic parameters were calculated for different categorical cut-offs. Area under the ROC curve (AUC) was highest when BDR was expressed as change in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) as a percentage of initial FEV1, as compared with predicted FEV1. The corresponding AUC was 59% (95% CI 54-64%) for current asthma and 87% (95% CI 81-93%) for ACO. Of the categorical cut-offs examined, the European Respiratory Society/American Thoracic Society threshold (≥12% from baseline and ≥200 mL) was assessed as providing the best balance between positive and negative likelihood ratios (LR+ and LR-, respectively), with corresponding sensitivities and specificities of 9% and 97%, respectively, for current asthma (LR+ 3.26, LR- 0.93), and 47% and 97%, respectively, for ACO (LR+ 16.05, LR- 0.55). With a threshold of ≥12% and ≥200 mL from baseline, a positive BDR test provided a clinically meaningful change in the post-test probability of disease, whereas a negative test did not. BDR was more useful as a diagnostic test in those with co-existent post-bronchodilator airflow obstruction (ACO).

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Biomedical and Clinical Sciences
Research Group:Cardiovascular medicine and haematology
Research Field:Respiratory diseases
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Evaluation of health and support services
Objective Field:Evaluation of health and support services not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Johns, DP (Associate Professor David Johns)
UTAS Author:Walters, EH (Professor Haydn Walters)
ID Code:152507
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:1
Deposited By:Medicine
Deposited On:2022-08-19
Last Modified:2022-09-08
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