Rationale: Corticosteroids are the antiinflammatory treatment of choice in asthma. Treatment guidelines are mainly symptom-driven but symptoms are not closely related to airway inflammation. The fraction of nitric oxide in exhaled air (FENO) is a marker of airway inflammation in asthma.
Objective: We evaluated whether titrating steroids on FENO improved asthma management in children.
Methods: Eighty-five children with atopic asthma, using inhaled steroids, were allocated to a FENO group (n=39) in which treatment decisions were made on both FENO and symptoms, or to a symptom group (n=46) treated on symptoms only. Children were seen every 3 months over a 1-year period.
Measurements: Symptoms were scored during 2 weeks before visits and 4 weeks before the final visit. FeNO was measured at all visits, and airway hyperresponsiveness and FEV1 were measured at the start and end of the study. Primary endpoint was cumulative steroid dose.
Results: Changes in steroid dose from baseline did not differ between groups. In the FENO group, hyperresponsiveness improved more than in the symptom group (2.5 vs. 1.1 doubling dose, p=0.04). FEV1 in the FENO group improved, and the change in FEV1 was not significantly different between groups. The FENO group had 8 severe exacerbations versus 18 in the symptom group. The change in symptom scores did not differ between groups. FENO increased in the symptom group; the change in FENO from baseline differed between groups (p=0.02).
Conclusion: In children with asthma, 1 year of steroid titration on FENO did not result in higher steroid doses and did improve airway hyperresponsiveness and inflammation.