Exhaled nitric oxide (eNO) levels are increased in untreated or unstable asthma and measurements can be made easily. Our aim was to assess the usefulness of eNO for diagnosing and predicting loss of control (LOC) in asthma following steroid withdrawal. Comparisons were made against sputum eosinophils and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) to hypertonic saline (4.5%). Seventy-eight patients with mild/moderate asthma had their inhaled steroid therapy withdrawn until LOC occurred or for a maximum of 6 wk. Sixty (77.9%) developed LOC. There were highly significant correlations between the changes in eNO and symptoms (p < 0.0001), FEV(1) (p < 0.002), sputum eosinophils (p < 0.0002), and saline PD(15) (p < 0.0002), and there were significant differences between LOC and no LOC groups. Both single measurements and changes of eNO (10 ppb, 15 ppb, or an increase of > 60% over baseline) had positive predictive values that ranged from 80 to 90% for predicting and diagnosing LOC. These values were similar to those obtained using sputum eosinophils and saline PD(15) measurements. We conclude that eNO measurements are as useful as induced sputum analysis and AHR in assessing airway inflammation, with the advantage that they are easy to perform.