Background and objective Patients with severe asthma remain highly symptomatic despite high dose anti-inflammatory treatment. Level of asthma control is often assessed in the clinical setting with the asthma control questionnaire (ACQ). Separate components of the ACQ focus on different aspects of control. A high score on the third question (Q3) demonstrates activity limitations and may be caused by factors other than asthma such as physical deconditioning, concomitant cardiac disease and dysfunctional breathing patterns, leading to a overestimation of the severity of asthma. This could potentially lead to overtreatment. The aim of this study was to determine whether patients with severe asthma had a continuously high ACQ score, predominated by the third question despite treatment.
Methods In a group of severe asthma patients, referred to the Royal Brompton hospital in London, UK, an evaluation of ACQ as monitoring tool was performed from May to July 2015, at an index clinic (v3) and two previous attendances (v1–2). The patients suffered from severe asthma (step 4 or 5 BTS/SIGN guideline treatment) and change in ACQ score over time (total and Q3) was compared with other measures of asthma severity such as medication burden and lung function.
Results Forty three patients (n = 27 females, 61.4%) of mean (SD) age: 56 (11) years were included. The total ACQ score (median (range)) at index was 2.67 (0.17–5.50), the ACQ score on Q3 was 3.00 (0.00–6.00) and mean (SD) FEV1 percent of predicted was 61.9 (±23.78). The total ACQ score was lower at index visit than the first visit (-0.17 (-1.83–1.50; p = 0.041). A change in ACQ score in Q5 was found (p = 0.019), whereas Q3 was unchanged. A change in FEV1 percent predicted was -0.62 (±12.11). A correlation between FEV1 percent predicted and both total ACQ score (p < 0.01) and Q3 ACQ score (p < 0.01) was found. There was no correlation between the changes in these three parameters.
Conclusion In patients with severe asthma there is a significant improvement in total ACQ score over three visits, but no improvement in exercise induced symptoms (Q3). This can be correlated with the fact that Q3 can reflect other symptoms than asthma.
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