The small airways and distal lung compartment in asthma and COPD: a time for reappraisal

Allergy. 2010 Feb;65(2):141-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2009.02242.x. Epub 2009 Nov 11.


The involvement of small airways in the pathogenesis of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been debated for a long time. However, a proper definition of small airway disease is still lacking, and neither a widely accepted biomarker nor a functional parameter to assess small airway abnormalities and to explore the effect of tested compounds on small airways is available. Aiming towards increased knowledge and consensus on this topic, this perspective paper intends to (i) strengthen awareness among the scientific community on the role of small airways in asthma and COPD; (ii) examine the pros and cons of some biological, functional and imaging parameters in the assessment of small airway abnormalities; and (iii) discuss the evidence for distal airway pharmacological targeting in asthma and COPD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / pathology
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Bronchioles / drug effects
  • Bronchioles / pathology
  • Bronchioles / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / pathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Function Tests


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents