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Keywords:

  • asthma;
  • asymptomatic bronchial hyperresponsiveness;
  • small airways

Abstract

Background

Bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) can be present in subjects without any respiratory symptoms. Little is known about the role of the small airways in asymptomatic subjects with BHR.

Methods

We investigated small airway function assessed by spirometry and impulse oscillometry, as well as Borg dyspnea scores at baseline and during a methacholine provocation test in 15 subjects with asymptomatic BHR, 15 asthma patients, and 15 healthy controls.

Results

At baseline, small airway function (R5–R20 and X5) was comparable between subjects with asymptomatic BHR and healthy controls, whereas asthma patients showed small airway dysfunction as reflected by higher R5–R20 and lower X5 values. During methacholine provocation, small airway dysfunction was more severe in asthma patients than in subjects with asymptomatic BHR. Interestingly, a higher increase in small airway dysfunction during methacholine provocation was associated with a higher increase in Borg dyspnea scores in subjects with asymptomatic BHR, but not in asthma patients.

Conclusion

Subjects with asymptomatic BHR may experience fewer symptoms in daily life because they have less small airway dysfunction.