Impulse oscillometry defined small airway dysfunction in asthmatic patients with normal spirometry: Prevalence, clinical associations, and impact on asthma control

Respir Med. 2023 Nov:218:107391. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2023.107391. Epub 2023 Aug 16.


Background: The small-airway dysfunction (SAD), detected with impulse oscillometry (IOS) methods, has been recently better characterized in patients with asthma. However, little is known about SAD in asthmatic patients with normal spirometry (NS).

Objective: In this study, we aimed to investigate, in an unselected sample of 321 patients with physician-diagnosed asthma and NS, prevalence, clinical characterization, and impact on asthma control of IOS-defined SAD. As a secondary objective of the study, we focused on comparing the difference between IOS- and spirometry-defined SAD.

Methods: Consecutive patients with a previous diagnosis of asthma but normal spirometry at the moment of the enrollment were stratified by the presence of IOS-defined SAD (difference in resistance at 5 Hz and at 20 Hz [R5-R20] greater than 0.07 kPa x s x L-1). We have also assessed the presence of SAD defined by spirometry, according to FEF 25-75 < 65% of the predicted. Clinical and laboratory features were collected, and univariable and multivariable analyses were used to analyze cross-sectional associations between clinical variables and outcomes (SAD).

Results: IOS-defined SAD was present in 54.1% of the cohort. In contrast, spirometry-defined SAD was present in only 10% of patients. Subjects with IOS-defined SAD showed less well-controlled asthma and a higher mean inhaled corticosteroid dosage use compared with subjects without SAD (both P < .001). Overweight (odds ratio [OR], 1.14; 95% CI, 1.05-1.23), exacerbation history (OR, 3.06; 95% CI, 1.34-6.97), asthma-related night awakenings (OR, 6.88; 95% CI, 2.13-22.23), exercise-induced asthma symptoms (OR, 33.5; 95% CI, 9.51-117.8), and controlled asthma (OR, 0.22; 95% CI, 0.06-0.84) were independently associated with SAD.

Conclusions: Asthmatic patients with IOS-defined SAD showed less well-controlled asthma, more severe exacerbations and higher mean inhaled corticosteroid dosage. We confirmed exercise-induced asthma, asthma-related night awakenings, exacerbation history, and overweight as independently associated with SAD, while showing well-controlled asthma as inversely associated. SAD may be overlooked by standard spirometry.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Asthma* / complications
  • Asthma* / diagnosis
  • Asthma* / drug therapy
  • Asthma, Exercise-Induced*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Oscillometry / methods
  • Overweight
  • Prevalence
  • Spirometry / methods


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones