European Respiratory Society Guidelines for the Diagnosis of Asthma in Adults

Eur Respir J. 2022 Feb 15;2101585. doi: 10.1183/13993003.01585-2021. Online ahead of print.


Although asthma is very common affecting 5-10% of the population, the diagnosis of asthma in adults remains a challenge in the real world that results in both over- and under-diagnosis. A task force (TF) was set up by the European Respiratory Society to systematically review the literature on the diagnostic accuracy of tests used to diagnose asthma in adult patients and provide recommendation for clinical practice.The TF defined eight PICO (Population, Index, Comparator, and Outcome) questions that were assessed using the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation) approach, The TF utilised the outcomes to develop an evidenced-based diagnostic algorithm, with recommendations for a pragmatic guideline for everyday practice that was directed by real-life patient experiences.The TF support the initial use of spirometry followed, and if airway obstruction is present, by bronchodilator reversibility testing. If initial spirometry fails to show obstruction, further tests should be performed in the following order: FeNO, PEF variability or in secondary care, bronchial challenge. We present the thresholds for each test that are compatible with a diagnosis of asthma in the presence of current symptoms.The TF reinforce the priority to undertake spirometry and recognise the value of measuring blood eosinophils and serum IgE to phenotype the patient. Measuring gas trapping by body plethysmography in patients with preserved FEV1/FVC ratio deserves further attention. The TF draw attention on the difficulty of making a correct diagnosis in patients already receiving inhaled corticosteroids, the comorbidities that may obscure the diagnosis, the importance of phenotyping, and the necessity to consider the patient experience in the diagnostic process.