Functional Predictors Discriminating Asthma-COPD Overlap (ACO) from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2022 Oct 21:17:2723-2743. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S382761. eCollection 2022.


Background: A significant proportion of patients with obstructive lung disease have clinical and functional features of both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), referred to as the asthma-COPD overlap (ACO). The distinction of these phenotypes, however, is not yet well-established due to the lack of defining clinical and/or functional criteria. The aim of our investigations was to assess the discriminating power of various lung function parameters on the assessment of ACO.

Methods: From databases of 4 pulmonary centers, a total of 540 patients (231 males, 309 females), including 372 patients with asthma, 77 patients with ACO and 91 patients with COPD, were retrospectively collected, and gradients among combinations of explanatory variables of spirometric (FEV1, FEV1/FVC, FEF25-75), plethysmographic (sReff, sGeff, the aerodynamic work of breathing at rest; sWOB), static lung volumes, including trapped gases and measurements of the carbon monoxide transfer (DLCO, KCO) were explored using multiple factor analysis (MFA). The discriminating power of lung function parameters with respect to ACO was assessed using linear discriminant analysis (LDA).

Results: LDA revealed that parameters of airway dynamics (sWOB, sReff, sGeff) combined with parameters of static lung volumes such as functional residual capacity (FRCpleth) and trapped gas at FRC (VTG FRC) are valuable and potentially important tools discriminating between asthma, ACO and COPD. Moreover, sWOB significantly contributes to the diagnosis of obstructive airway diseases, independent from the state of pulmonary hyperinflation, whilst the diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO) significantly differentiates between the 3 diagnostic classes.

Conclusion: The complexity of COPD with its components of interaction and their heterogeneity, especially in discrimination from ACO, may well be differentiated if patients are explored by a whole set of target parameters evaluating, interactionally, flow limitation, airway dynamics, pulmonary hyperinflation, small airways dysfunction and gas exchange disturbances assessing specific functional deficits.

Keywords: ACO; COPD; COPD and coexisting asthma; LDA; MFA; aerodynamic work of breathing; airway dynamics; linear discriminant analysis; multiple factor analysis; precision medicine; pulmonary hyperinflation; small airways dysfunction.

MeSH terms

  • Asthma* / complications
  • Asthma* / diagnosis
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / complications
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Carbon Monoxide

Grants and funding

No funding was received.