Article Text

Original article
Asymptomatic subjects with airway obstruction have significant impairment at exercise
  1. Thibaud Soumagne1,2,
  2. Pierantonio Laveneziana3,4,
  3. Matthieu Veil-Picard1,2,
  4. Alicia Guillien1,5,
  5. Frédéric Claudé1,2,
  6. Marc Puyraveau6,
  7. Isabella Annesi-Maesano7,
  8. Nicolas Roche8,
  9. Jean-Charles Dalphin2,9,
  10. Bruno Degano1,5
  1. 1Service de Physiologie-Explorations Fonctionnelles, Besançon, France
  2. 2Service de Pneumologie, Besançon, France
  3. 3Sorbonne Universités, INSERM, UMR_S 1158, Neurophysiologie Respiratoire Expérimentale et Clinique, Paris, France
  4. 4AP-HP, Groupe Hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière Charles Foix, Service des Explorations Fonctionnelles de la Respiration, de l'Exercice et de la Dyspnée, Paris, France
  5. 5EA 3920, Université de Franche-Comté, Besançon, France
  6. 6Centre de Méthodologie Clinique, CHU Besançon, Besançon, France
  7. 7Epidémiologie des Maladies Respiratoires et Allergiques i-PLESP INSERM et UPMC, Paris, France
  8. 8Service de Pneumologie et Soins Intensifs Respiratoires, Groupe Hospitalier Cochin, Site Val de Grâce, AP-HP et Université Paris Descartes (EA2511), Sorbonne-Paris-Cité, Paris, France
  9. 9UMR CNRS Chrono Environnement, Université de Franche-Comté, Besançon, France
  1. Correspondence to Professor Bruno Degano, CHU Jean Minjoz, 3 Boulevard Fleming, Besançon 25000, France; bruno.degano{at}


Background The relevance of screening for airway obstruction in subjects not complaining of COPD symptoms may depend on the definition of airway obstruction. Response to exercise in asymptomatic subjects with persistent airway obstruction as defined by a postbronchodilator FEV1/FVC <5th centile lower limit of normal (LLN) remains unknown.

Methods Dyspnoea (Borg scale), exercise tolerance and ventilatory constraints on tidal volume expansion were assessed in 20 consecutive asymptomatic subjects with persistent mild airway obstruction detected by screening (postbronchodilator FEV1/FVC z-score: −2.14±0.29; FEV1 z-score: −1.02±0.64) undergoing incremental cycle cardiopulmonary exercise testing, compared with 20 healthy controls with normal spirometry matched for age, sex, body mass index and smoking history (FEV1/FVC z-score: −0.13±0.57; FEV1 z-score: 0.32±0.67) and with 20 symptomatic patients with COPD matched for the same characteristics (FEV1/FVC z-score: −2.36±0.51; FEV1 z-score: −1.02±0.48).

Results Asymptomatic subjects with airway obstruction had higher dyspnoea ratings than controls during incremental exercise. Asymptomatic subjects with airway obstruction had also peak oxygen consumption and peak power output that were lower than controls, and similar to those observed in patients with COPD. Although less frequent than in COPD, dynamic hyperinflation was more frequent in asymptomatic subjects with airway obstruction than in controls (85%, 50% and 10%, respectively; p=0.01 in asymptomatic subjects vs controls and p=0.04 vs COPD).

Conclusions Although they did not present with chronic activity-related dyspnoea, subjects with a postbronchodilator FEV1/FVC<LLN as detected by screening had poorer exercise tolerance than healthy controls on exertion, and a significant proportion of them had dynamic hyperinflation. These subjects may, therefore, deserve further attention and may warrant regular follow-up.

  • COPD ÀÜ Mechanisms
  • Exercise
  • Lung Physiology

Statistics from

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles