The mechanisms underlying not well-controlled (NWC) asthma remain poorly understood, but accumulating evidence points to peripheral airway dysfunction as a key contributor. The present study tests whether our recently described respiratory system reactance (Xrs) assessment of peripheral airway dysfunction reveals insight into poor asthma control. The aim of this study was to investigate the contribution of Xrs to asthma control. In 22 subjects with asthma, we measured Xrs (forced oscillation technique), spirometry, lung volumes, and ventilation heterogeneity (inert-gas washout), before and after bronchodilator administration. The relationship between Xrs and lung volume during a deflation maneuver yielded two parameters: the volume at which Xrs abruptly decreased (closing volume) and Xrs at this volume (Xrscrit). Lowered (more negative) Xrscrit reflects reduced apparent lung compliance at high lung volumes due, for example, to heterogeneous airway narrowing and unresolved airway closure or near closure above the critical lung volume. Asthma control was assessed via the 6-point Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ6). NWC asthma was defined as ACQ6 > 1.0. In 10 NWC and 12 well-controlled subjects, ACQ6 was strongly associated with postbronchodilator (post-BD) Xrscrit (R(2) = 0.43, P < 0.001), independent of all measured variables, and was a strong predictor of NWC asthma (receiver operator characteristic area = 0.94, P < 0.001). By contrast, Xrs measures at lower lung volumes were not associated with ACQ6. Xrscrit itself was significantly associated with measures of gas trapping and ventilation heterogeneity, thus confirming the link between Xrs and airway closure and heterogeneity. Residual airway dysfunction at high lung volumes assessed via Xrscrit is an independent contributor to asthma control.
Keywords: airway closure; airway heterogeneity; asthma symptoms; forced oscillation technique; nomenclature; peripheral airway dysfunction.