A screening test for airways reactivity. An abbreviated methacholine inhalation challenge

Chest. 1982 Jul;82(1):15-8. doi: 10.1378/chest.82.1.15.


A screening test to measure nonspecific airways reactivity was developed and compared to a standard methacholine inhalation challenge in 13 asthmatic patients and ten normal control subjects. The screening challenge consisted of one deep breath, then four breaths of a 5 mg/ml methacholine solution followed by one and four breaths of 25 mg/ml of methacholine. Subjects with a history of wheezing received the 5 mg/ml of methacholine first while those without a history of asthma began the challenge at the 25 mg/ml methacholine concentration. Spirometric test were employed and the challenge was terminated when FEV1 fell 20 percent from baseline. The standard methacholine challenge used a dosimeter and all subjects took five breaths of saline solution followed by seven increasing concentrations of methacholine. Dose response curves were constructed and the provocation dose of methacholine that caused a 20 percent fall in FEV1 was calculated for each protocol. Results of the screening methacholine challenge correlated with those obtained from the more lengthy standard protocol (r = 0.94), and correctly identified levels of airways reactivity in asthmatic patients and normal subjects. The abbreviated protocol was rapid (6-12 min), safe, and inexpensive. Since the equipment is readily available and easy to transport, it could be used at sites outside the hospital as a screening test for nonspecific airways reactivity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Methacholine Compounds*
  • Spirometry


  • Methacholine Compounds