An effective strategy for diagnosing occupational asthma: use of induced sputum

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2004 Oct 15;170(8):845-50. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200403-380OC. Epub 2004 Jul 21.


Monitoring airway inflammation by means of induced sputum cell counts seems to improve the management of asthma. We sought to assess whether such monitoring at the end of periods at and away from work combined with the monitoring of PEF could improve the diagnosis of occupational asthma. We enrolled subjects suspected of having occupational asthma. Serial monitoring of PEF was performed during 2 weeks at and away from work. At the end of each period, induced sputum was collected. Specific inhalation challenge was subsequently performed. PEF graphs were interpreted visually by five independent observers. Forty-nine subjects, including 23 with positive specific inhalation challenge, completed the study. The addition of sputum cell counts to the monitoring of PEF increased the specificity of this test, respectively, by 18 (range [r] 13.7-25.5) or 26.8% (r 24.8-30.4) depending if an increase of sputum eosinophils greater than 1 or 2% when at work was considered as significant. The sensitivity increased by 8.2% (r 4.1-13.4) or decreased by 12.3% (r 3.1-24.1) depending on the cutoff value in sputum eosinophils chosen (greater than 1 or 2%, respectively). The addition of sputum cell counts to PEF monitoring is useful to improve the diagnosis of occupational asthma.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Eosinophils / cytology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Methacholine Chloride
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sputum / cytology*
  • Workplace


  • Methacholine Chloride