Airways obstruction in patients with long-term asthma consistent with 'irreversible asthma'

Chest. 1997 Nov 5;112(5):1234-40. doi: 10.1378/chest.112.5.1234.


Objective: To describe a series of eight patients with long-term asthma and pulmonary function consistent with "end-stage," irreversible obstruction.

Design: Retrospective descriptive analysis of patients with severe asthma.

Setting: A university-based allergy-immunology service with a large population of corticosteroid-dependent patients with asthma.

Patients: Eight patients with long-standing asthma and apparently irreversible airways obstruction despite long-term oral and inhaled corticosteroid therapy.

Measurements: Pulmonary function data, radiographic studies including chest radiograph and high-resolution CT of the chest, and serologic analysis to rule out allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis and alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency had been performed as indicated, and these results were obtained through chart review.

Results: The age of the patients ranged from 41 to 58 years, with a mean duration of asthma of 39 years (SD = 12.4 years). No patient had evidence of any other pulmonary disease process. The mean duration of daily or alternate-day oral corticosteroid treatment was 15.8 years (SD=11.8 years). Despite intensive pharmacotherapy, all patients had an FEV1 57% (42+/-12%) with marked small airways disease as reflected in the forced expiratory flow between 25% and 75% of the FVC. Three of the eight patients demonstrated an accelerated decline in FEV1 despite continuous systemic corticosteroids.

Conclusions: We have described a series of eight patients with long-standing asthma who demonstrate irreversible airways obstruction despite long-term systemic and inhaled corticosteroids. The term "end-stage asthma" or irreversible asthma might be applied to these patients in whom fixed obstruction has occurred in the absence of other pulmonary diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Airway Obstruction / drug therapy
  • Airway Obstruction / etiology*
  • Airway Obstruction / physiopathology
  • Asthma / complications*
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Routes
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Hypersensitivity / drug therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prednisone / administration & dosage
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Tests
  • Time Factors


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Prednisone