The role of small airways in monitoring the response to asthma treatment: what is beyond FEV1?

Allergy. 2009 Nov;64(11):1563-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2009.02139.x. Epub 2009 Aug 27.


The definition of asthma has evolved from that of an episodic disease characterized by reversible airways constriction to a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, with at least partially reversible airway constriction. Increasing evidence supports the notion that small and large airways play a central role in asthma pathophysiology with regard to inflammation, remodeling and symptoms. The contribution of the distal airways to the asthma phenotype carries implications for the delivery of inhaled medications to the appropriate areas of the lung and for the monitoring of the response to asthma treatment. Asthma control is evaluated on the basis of symptoms, lung function and exacerbations. However, evidence suggests that dissociation between lung function and respiratory symptoms, quality of life and airway inflammation exists. In this study, common spirometric parameters offer limited information with regard to the peripheral airways, and it is therefore necessary to move beyond FEV(1). Several functional parameters and inflammatory markers, which are discussed in the present study, can be employed to evaluate distal lung function. In this study, extrafine formulations deliver inhaled drugs throughout the bronchial tree (both large and small airways) and are effective on parameters that directly or indirectly measure air trapping/airway closure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones* / pharmacology
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones* / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents* / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Bronchi / drug effects*
  • Bronchi / physiopathology*
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Function Tests / methods
  • Spirometry / methods
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents