Background: Analysis of exhaled breath condensate (EBC) is a non-invasive method for studying the acidity (pH) of airway secretions in patients with inflammatory lung diseases.
Aim: To assess the reproducibility of EBC pH for two commercially available devices (portable RTube and non-portable ECoScreen) in healthy controls, patients with asthma or COPD, and subjects suffering from an acute cold with lower-airway symptoms. In addition, we assessed the repeatability in healthy controls.
Methods: EBC was collected from 40 subjects (n = 10 in each of the above groups) using RTube and ECoScreen. EBC was collected from controls on two separate occasions within 5 days. pH in EBC was assessed after degasification with argon for 20 min.
Results: In controls, pH-measurements in EBC collected by RTube or ECoScreen showed no significant difference between devices (p = 0.754) or between days (repeatability coefficient RTube: 0.47; ECoScreen: 0.42) of collection. A comparison between EBC pH collected by the two devices in asthma, COPD and cold patients also showed good reproducibility. No differences in pH values were observed between controls (mean pH 8.27; RTube) and patients with COPD (pH 7.97) or asthma (pH 8.20), but lower values were found using both devices in patients with a cold (pH 7.56; RTube, p < 0.01; ECoScreen, p < 0.05).
Conclusion: We conclude that pH measurements in EBC collected by RTube and ECoScreen are repeatable and reproducible in healthy controls, and are reproducible and comparable in healthy controls, COPD and asthma patients, and subjects with a common cold.