The scientific and clinical value of a measure of complexity is potentially enormous because complexity appears to be lost in the presence of illness. The authors examined the effect of elevated airway obstruction on the complexity of the airflow (Q) pattern of asthmatic patients analyzing the airflow approximate entropy (ApEnQ). This study involved 11 healthy controls, 11 asthmatics with normal spirometric exams, and 40 asthmatics with mild (14), moderate (14), and severe (12) airway obstructions. A significant (P < 0.02) reduction in the ApEnQ was observed in the asthmatic patients. This reduction was significantly correlated with spirometric indexes of airway obstruction [FEV(1) (%): R = 0.31, P = 0.013] and the total respiratory impedance (R = -0.39; P < 0.002). These results are in close agreement with pathophysiological fundamentals and suggest that the airflow pattern becomes less complex in asthmatic patients, which may reduce the adaptability of the respiratory system to perform the exercise that is associated with daily life activities. This analysis was able to identify respiratory changes in patients with mild obstruction with an adequate accuracy (83%). Higher accuracies were obtained in patients with moderate and severe obstructions. The analysis of airflow pattern complexity by the ApEnQ was able to provide new information concerning the changes associated with asthma. In addition, this analysis was also able to contribute to the detection of the adverse effects of asthma. Because these measurements are easy to perform, such a technique may represent an alternative and/or a complement to other conventional exams to help the clinical evaluations of asthmatic patients.