Measuring Exhaled Nitric Oxide Levels in Adults: The Importance of Atopy and Airway Responsiveness

Chest. 2004 Nov;126(5):1540-5. doi: 10.1378/chest.126.5.1540.


Background: Raised exhaled nitric oxide (Feno) levels have been associated with asthma. However, we have found that in children, Feno was increased in atopic children with increased airway responsiveness (AR), and this was independent of a diagnosis of asthma.

Study objectives: The current study was designed to test the hypothesis that in adults there is no association between Feno and asthma after controlling for atopy and AR.

Measurements: One hundred fifteen adults (77 women; mean age, 41 years) underwent an assessment that included Feno measurements, spirometry, skin-prick testing, blood eosinophil count, and inhaled histamine challenge (results are expressed as a dose-response slope [DRS]).

Results: When only atopic individuals were considered (n = 73), Feno was positively associated with the DRS (p = 0.003), male gender (0.02), and negatively associated with current smoking (p = 0.09). Only male gender (p = 0.03) was associated with Feno among nonatopic individuals (n = 36). In multivariate analysis, there was no association between Feno and current asthma, current wheeze, or asthma ever.

Conclusions: We conclude that in adult subjects, elevated Feno measurements are associated with a phenotype characterized by atopy and increased AR regardless of the presence of asthma or asthma-like symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Asthma / metabolism*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Exhalation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Nitric Oxide