Purpose of review: This review summarizes recent reports on peak expiratory flow (PEF) monitoring in clinical asthma trials and clinical practice.
Recent findings: In clinical trials, summary measures such as average morning PEF provide only a fraction of the available information about asthma control and treatment response. New statistical models should improve the yield from PEF datasets. Improved criteria are needed for the diagnosis of exacerbations, and these may be developed from quality-control analysis of existing datasets. In clinical practice we must reduce the burden of monitoring and increase the ease of interpretation of PEF data. Electronic monitoring, with short message service or Internet communication, may assist with both. There is a need for standardized user-friendly PEF charts and simple statistically appropriate interpretative tools, which will facilitate the development of clinical algorithms and individualized written action plans. Normal values for diurnal variability should be updated to reflect twice daily monitoring.
Summary: Current use of PEF data is limited by the burden of monitoring and the continuing use of interpretative tools that were originally developed for their practical feasibility rather than their clinical validity. Both of these problems may be improved by giving attention to methods for recording, displaying and analysing PEF data.