Exhaled nitric oxide for monitoring childhood asthma inflammation compared to sputum analysis, serum interleukins and pulmonary function

Pediatr Pulmonol. 2008 Feb;43(2):134-41. doi: 10.1002/ppul.20747.


The level of fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FENO) is significantly elevated in uncontrolled asthma and decreases after anti-inflammatory therapy. The aim of this prospective study was to analyze the behavior of FENO in the follow-up and management of the inflammation in asthmatic pediatric patients treated with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), compared to sputum cellularity, serum interleukins (IL), and pulmonary function. Twenty-six clinically stable asthmatic children aged from 6 to 18 years, previously treated or not with ICS were included. Following an international consensus (GINA), the patients were submitted to standard treatment with inhaled fluticasone for 3 months according to the severity of the disease. During this period, each patient underwent three assessments at intervals of approximately 6 weeks. Each evaluation consisted of the measurement of FENO, determination of serum interleukins IL-5, IL-10, IL-13, and interferon gamma (INF-gamma), spirometry and cytological analysis of spontaneous or induced sputum. A significant reduction in mean FENO and IL-5, without concomitant changes in FEV1, was observed along the study. There was no significant correlation between FeNO and FEV1 in the three assessments. A significant correlation between FeNO and IL-5 levels was only observed in the third assessment (r = 0.499, P = 0.025). In most patients, serum IL-10, IL-13, and INF-gamma concentrations were undetectable throughout the study. Sputum samples were obtained spontaneously in 11 occasions and in 56 by induction with 3% hypertonic saline solution (success rate: 50.8%), with 39 (69.9%) of them adequate for analysis. Only two of the 26 patients produced adequate samples in the three consecutive evaluations, which impaired the determination of a potential association between sputum cellularity and FeNO levels throughout the study. In conclusion, among the parameters of this study, it was difficult to perform and to interpret the serial analysis of spontaneous or induced sputum. Serum interleukins, which remained at very low or undetectable levels in most patients, were not found to be useful for therapeutic monitoring, except for IL-5 that seems to present some correlation with levels of FeNO exhaled. Monitoring of the mean FEV1 indicated no significant variations during the treatment, demonstrating that functional stability or the absence of obstruction may not reflect the adequate management of asthma. Serial measurement of FeNO seemed to best reflect the progressive anti-inflammatory action of ICS in asthma.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Androstadienes / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Asthma / blood
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / metabolism*
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exhalation
  • Female
  • Fluticasone
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / blood
  • Interleukin-10 / blood
  • Interleukin-13 / blood
  • Interleukin-5 / blood
  • Interleukins / blood*
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spirometry
  • Sputum / cytology
  • Sputum / metabolism*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Androstadienes
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Interleukin-13
  • Interleukin-5
  • Interleukins
  • Interleukin-10
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Fluticasone