Background: Induced sputum (IS) has been proposed as a non-invasive alternative to bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) for the assessment and monitoring of airways inflammation. The aim of this study was to compare both methods in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). The possible differences between subjects with CF, mild asthma and healthy volunteers (HV) was also assessed.
Method: In a single centre, randomised, two way crossover study, 11 patients with CF, 9 mild asthmatics (MA) and 11 HV underwent BAL and hypertonic saline induction on consecutive days. Free neutrophil elastase (NE), neutrophil elastase/alpha(1)-anti-trypsin complex (NE-AAT), tumour necrosis factor receptor (p55) and interleukin-8 (IL-8) were measured in cell free supernatants.
Results: Three CF patients reported serious adverse events following BAL. NE was usually undetectable in both IS or BAL samples and NE-AAT concentrations did not differ consistently between the two sampling methods. IL-8 and p55 levels in the CF patients tended to be higher in IS samples compared with BAL samples (median 19,860 vs. 3,855 pg/ml and 2.55 vs. 0.29 ng/ml, respectively). There was a significant difference in mean p55 concentrations between CF, MA and HV in IS samples (P=0.003) but not in BAL samples (P=0.36). The difference in mean IL-8 concentrations in IS samples between subject groups was statistically different (P=0.023).
Conclusions: IS samples can be safely obtained from CF patients. Analysis of IS samples can help to characterize the inflammatory process in the airways of CF patients. The serious adverse events following BAL in 3 CF patients highlight an inherent risk associated with this procedure.