Optimum treatment of bronchial asthma requires accurate diagnosis and severity classification. We studied the use of an exercise bronchial challenge in the asthmatic patient as a diagnostic tool. An exercise bronchial challenge test was carried out in 431 asthmatic children and 114 children without a history of asthma in a moderate-altitude environment (2,230 m above sea level/7,314 feet above sea level). Values of peak expiratory flow (baseline and maximum fall) were analyzed through time in each asthma severity group (intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent, severe persistent, and nonasthmatic controls). There was a significant difference among responses of asthma severity groups for almost all variables. No difference was found between nonasthmatic and intermittent groups who had similar behavior, except in bronchodilator response. An exercise bronchial challenge helps classify a patient according to asthma severity; it is easy to reproduce and does not require expensive equipment. It allows diagnosing and classifying asthma severity easily and supplementing the clinical evaluation. Based on our results, we propose a fall of PEF >or= 11% as new cutoff point for making a diagnosis of persistent bronchial asthma. A fall of 11-25% indicates mild persistent asthma; from 25-50%, moderate persistent asthma; and a bigger fall, severe persistent asthma.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.