Prevalence, Diagnostic Utility and Associated Characteristics of Bronchodilator Responsiveness

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2024 Feb 15;209(4):390-401. doi: 10.1164/rccm.202308-1436OC.


Rationale: The prevalence and diagnostic utility of bronchodilator responsiveness (BDR) in a real-life setting is unclear. Objective: To explore this uncertainty in patients aged ⩾12 years with physician-assigned diagnoses of asthma, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or COPD in NOVELTY, a prospective cohort study in primary and secondary care in 18 countries. Methods: The proportion of patients with a positive BDR test in each diagnostic category was calculated using 2005 (ΔFEV1 or ΔFVC ⩾12% and ⩾200 ml) and 2021 (ΔFEV1 or ΔFVC >10% predicted) European Respiratory Society/American Thoracic Society criteria. Measurements and Main Results: We studied 3,519 patients with a physician-assigned diagnosis of asthma, 833 with a diagnosis of asthma + COPD, and 2,436 with a diagnosis of COPD. The prevalence of BDR was 19.7% (asthma), 29.6% (asthma + COPD), and 24.7% (COPD) using 2005 criteria and 18.1%, 23.3%, and 18.0%, respectively, using 2021 criteria. Using 2021 criteria in patients diagnosed with asthma, BDR was associated with higher fractional exhaled nitric oxide; lower lung function; higher symptom burden; more frequent hospital admissions; and greater use of triple therapy, oral corticosteroids, or biologics. In patients diagnosed with COPD, BDR (2021) was associated with lower lung function and higher symptom burden. Conclusions: BDR prevalence in patients with chronic airway diseases receiving treatment ranges from 18% to 30%, being modestly lower with the 2021 than with the 2005 European Respiratory Society/American Thoracic Society criteria, and it is associated with lower lung function and greater symptom burden. These observations question the validity of BDR as a key diagnostic tool for asthma managed in clinical practice or as a standard inclusion criterion for clinical trials of asthma and instead suggest that BDR be considered a treatable trait for chronic airway disease.

Keywords: BDR; asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Asthma* / diagnosis
  • Asthma* / drug therapy
  • Asthma* / epidemiology
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / epidemiology
  • Vital Capacity


  • Bronchodilator Agents

Supplementary concepts

  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive, Severe Early-Onset

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