Background: The effect of the duration of sputum induction on markers of inflammation in induced sputum is unknown, and the optimal duration of sputum induction for research purposes in airway disease is uncertain.
Objective: We sought to determine whether the duration of sputum induction influences the cellular or biochemical characteristics of induced sputum.
Methods: Induced sputum was collected sequentially at 4-minute intervals during a 20-minute sputum induction in 12 subjects with mild and moderate asthma. Each 4-minute sample was collected and analyzed separately for total and differential cell counts and for levels of eosinophil cationic protein, fibrinogen, mucin-like glycoprotein, and surfactant protein SP-A.
Results: The percentages of eosinophils and neutrophils were significantly higher at the beginning of the 20-minute sputum induction than at the end, whereas the percentage of macrophages was significantly lower at the beginning than at the end. In addition, the levels of eosinophil cationic protein and mucin-like glycoprotein were significantly higher at the beginning of the 20-minute induction than at the end, whereas the level of surfactant protein SP-A was significantly lower.
Conclusions: The duration of sputum induction significantly affects the cellular and biochemical composition of induced sputum in a manner suggesting that large airways are sampled at the beginning of sputum induction, whereas peripheral airways and alveoli are sampled at later time periods. Our data demonstrate the importance of standardizing the duration of sputum induction in clinical research studies, and on the basis of these data, we have chosen 12 minutes as the optimal duration for sputum induction in asthmatic subjects.