Application of negative pressure at the mouth during tidal expiration (NEP) provides a simple, rapid, noninvasive method for detecting expiratory flow limitation during spontaneous breathing. Patients in whom NEP elicits an increase in flow throughout expiration are not flow-limited (FL). In contrast, patients in whom application of NEP does not elicit an increase in flow during most or part of tidal expiration are considered FL. We have used the NEP technique to assess the prevalence of expiratory flow limitation during resting breathing in sable asthmatic patients in both the seated and supine positions. In patients in the sitting position, we have also assessed flow limitation with the conventional method, based on comparison of tidal and maximal expiratory flow-volume (MEFV) curves. We studied 13 patients (FEV1 range: 48 to 94% predicted) with both the NEP and conventional techniques. According to the NEP technique, none of the patients was FL in the seated and only two were FL in the supine position. By contrast, on the basis of the conventional method, six of the patients would have been classified as FL in the sitting position. We conclude that: (1) most stable asthmatic patients do not exhibit tidal expiratory flow limitation during resting breathing; and (2) the conventional method for assessing flow limitation may lead to erroneous conclusions.