Oscillatory Mechanics in Asthma: Emphasis on Airway Variability and Heterogeneity

Crit Rev Biomed Eng. 2015;43(2-3):97-130. doi: 10.1615/CritRevBiomedEng.v43.i2-3.10.


Spirometry is one of the most widely used tests in the assessment and monitoring of asthma. However, spirometry cannot be performed in very young children and some adult patients, and is poorly sensitive to small airways, which are primarily involved in the pathophysiology of asthma. The forced oscillation technique (FOT) has emerged as a powerful alternative technique that instead characterizes respiratory mechanics during normal breathing with no forced maneuver. In this review we highlight the current state of the art of the FOT and its utility in the assessment of lung function in asthma. First we briefly discuss the clinical features and characteristics of asthma. This is followed by a discussion of the assessment of airway obstruction and airway hyperresponsiveness using spirometry. We then review the basics of FOT and its application in respiratory diseases. FOT data are particularly amenable to modeling as an aide to physiological interpretation, and we review several common approaches. This is followed by an in-depth discussion of the assessment of airway variability and heterogeneity using FOT in asthma. Finally, we speculate on the potential clinical utility of FOT in asthma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Airway Resistance
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Respiration Disorders / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Function Tests / methods
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Respiratory System / physiopathology
  • Spirometry