Clinical applications of induced sputum

Chest. 2006 May;129(5):1344-8. doi: 10.1378/chest.129.5.1344.


The development of standardized methods for sputum induction has improved the quality and reproducibility of sputum samples. This technique has been used to optimize samples in the investigation of pulmonary tuberculosis and lung cancer, but its clinical application as a noninvasive measure of airway inflammation has highlighted the enormous potential of this technique. Sputum induction has allowed researchers to characterize the inflammatory profiles of a variety of airway diseases including asthma, COPD, and chronic cough. To date, the identification of sputum eosinophilia has the greatest clinical value as this predicts a favorable response to corticosteroids and can therefore guide treatment. In asthma and COPD management, protocols aimed at normalizing the sputum eosinophil count have markedly reduced exacerbations without an overall increase in therapy. Currently, no other noninvasive measure of airway inflammation has demonstrated a benefit in reducing exacerbations. The value of sputum induction and analysis is not restricted to the recognition of sputum eosinophilia but also may be used to direct novel antineutrophilic therapies. Thus, it is time for sputum induction to move from the research laboratory to the clinic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / pathology
  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Cough / pathology
  • Cough / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / pathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy*
  • Sputum / cytology*
  • Treatment Outcome