Discriminative capacity of bronchodilator response measured with three different lung function techniques in asthmatic and healthy children aged 2 to 5 years

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2001 Aug 15;164(4):554-9. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.164.4.2006119.


The primary aim of this study was to quantify and compare bronchodilator responsiveness in healthy and asthmatic children aged 2 to 5 yr. The secondary aim of the study was to compare discriminative capacity (i.e., sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values of the reversibility test for the diagnosis of asthma) for each of the lung function tests applied in the study. Specific airway resistance (sRaw) as measured by whole-body plethysmography, respiratory resistance as measured with the interrupter technique (Rint), and respiratory resistance and reactance at 5 Hz (Rrs5, Xrs5, respectively) as measured with the impulse oscillation technique were assessed before and 20 min after inhalation of terbutaline from a pressurized metered-dose inhaler via a metal spacer by 92 children (37 healthy controls and 55 asthmatic subjects). The study of healthy children followed a randomized, double-blind, crossover design, whereas the study of asthmatic children was open. Baseline lung function was significantly decreased in asthmatic children as compared with healthy control subjects as reflected by all techniques used in the study. sRaw, Rint, and Rrs5, but not Xrs5, improved significantly with terbutaline as compared with placebo in healthy control subjects. Lung function improved to a significantly greater extent in asthmatic children than in control subjects as reflected by all methods. sRaw provided the best discriminative power of such a bronchodilator response, with a sensitivity of 66% and specificity of 81% at the cutoff level of a 25% decrease in sRaw after bronchodilator administration. In conclusion, bronchodilator response measured by sRaw allows a separation of asthmatic from healthy young children. This may help define asthma in this clinically difficult-to-manage group of young wheezy children. The sensitivity and specificity of the other methods used in the study were less than those of sRaw.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Age Factors
  • Airway Resistance*
  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Bronchodilator Agents* / administration & dosage
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Discriminant Analysis
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Plethysmography, Whole Body / methods*
  • Plethysmography, Whole Body / standards
  • Respiratory Function Tests / methods*
  • Respiratory Function Tests / standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Terbutaline* / administration & dosage


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Terbutaline