Dysfunctional breathing phenotype in adults with asthma - incidence and risk factors

Clin Transl Allergy. 2012 Sep 19;2(1):18. doi: 10.1186/2045-7022-2-18.


Background: Abnormal breathing patterns may cause characteristic symptoms and impair quality of life. In a cross-sectional survey 29% of adults treated for asthma in primary care had symptoms suggestive of dysfunctional breathing (DB), more likely to be female and younger, with no differences for severity of asthma. No clear risk factors were demonstrated for DB in asthma, nor the impact of asthma medication was evaluated. The objective of this study was to describe the DB phenotype in adults with asthma treated in a specialised asthma centre.

Methods: Adult patients aged 17-65 with diagnosed asthma were screened for DB using the Nijmegen questionnaire (positive predictive score >23) and confirmed by progressive exercise testing. The following were evaluated as independent risk factors for DB in the multiple regression analysis: female sex; atopy, obesity, active smoker, moderate/severe rhinitis, psychopathology, GERD, arterial hypertension; severe asthma, asthma duration > 5 years, lack of asthma control, fixed airway obstruction, fast lung function decline, frequent exacerbator and brittle asthma phenotypes; lack of ICS, use of LABA or LTRA.

Results: 91 adults with asthma, mean age 35.04 ±1.19 years, 47(51.65%) females were evaluated. 27 (29.67%) subjects had a positive screening score on Nijmegen questionnaire and 16(17.58%) were confirmed by progressive exercise testing as having DB. Independent risk factors for DB were psychopathology (p = 0.000002), frequent exacerbator asthma phenotype (p = 0.01) and uncontrolled asthma (p < 0.000001).

Conclusion: Dysfunctional breathing is not infrequent in asthma patients and should be evaluated in asthma patients presenting with psychopathology, frequent severe asthma exacerbations or uncontrolled asthma. Asthma medication (ICS, LABA or LTRA) had no significant relation with dysfunctional breathing.