BACKGROUND: Concerns remain about the safety of bronchoscopy in asthma and there are few data on the effect of this procedure on asthma control in the days or weeks following bronchoscopy. METHODS: In an initial study of bronchoalveolar lavage and bronchial biopsies in asthmatic and control subjects, data on peak expiratory flow rates (PEFR) collected prospectively before and after the procedure were available from 21 of the 29 asthmatic subjects studied. These showed a median 23% fall in PEFR from baseline after bronchoscopy (range 3-58%). To determine whether this fall in PEFR following bronchoscopy reflected bronchospasm or the effect of sedation, PEFR and spirometric tests were performed during the two hours following bronchoscopy in a further study of 15 symptomatic asthmatic subjects and 20 non-asthmatic controls. To examine the effect on asthma control, asthmatic patients recorded PEFR, symptom scores, and medication use for two weeks before and after bronchoscopy. RESULTS: After bronchoscopy with bronchial biopsies there was no difference between the median maximal fall in either PEFR or arterial oxygen saturation between the 15 asthmatic patients (10.4% and 4%, respectively) and 20 controls (12% and 3%). Moreover, there were no significant changes in PEFR, symptom score, or medication use by the asthmatic subjects in the two weeks after bronchoscopy when compared with the two weeks before bronchoscopy. CONCLUSIONS: Fibreoptic bronchoscopy is well tolerated in asthmatic subjects. Falls in PEFR in both asthmatic and non-asthmatic subjects after bronchial biopsy may reflect the effects of sedation rather than bronchospasm. Additional bronchoalveolar lavage may cause bronchoconstriction. Careful monitoring is therefore essential. Peak flow monitoring up to two weeks after bronchoscopy with bronchial biopsy revealed no delayed effects on asthma control.
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