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P176 Diagnosing asthma in children using spirometry: evidence from a birth cohort study
  1. CS Murray1,
  2. P Foden1,
  3. LA Lowe1,
  4. H Durrington1,
  5. A Custovic2,
  6. A Simpson1
  1. 1University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  2. 2Imperial College, London, UK


Background NICE draft guidance for the diagnosis of childhood asthma proposes algorithms based on four tests of lung function (FEV1/FVC ratio, bronchodilator reversibility [BDR], FeNO, PEFR variability); a minimum of two tests must be positive to make a diagnosis. For FEV1/FVC ratio, the proposed cut-off for a positive test is <70%, or the lower limit of normal (LLN), which is neither defined nor widely available. In this algorithm, spirometry is the first-line investigation, and children with FEV1/FVC > 70% are not offered BDR. However, the diagnostic test accuracy for FEV1/FVC and BDR is unknown. Within the setting of a population-based birth cohort we investigated the value of FEV1/FVC and BDR in diagnosing asthma.

Methods We assessed study participants at clinical follow-up at age 16 years using validated questionnaires and lung function measurement. Spirometry was measured according to ATS/ERS guidelines. Using the Asthma UK reference equations, we calculated LLN for FEV1/FVC. BDR was considered positive if FEV1 increased by >12% following administration of 400 mg of salbutamol. Current asthma was defined as all three of: (1) doctor-diagnosed asthma ever, (2) wheezing in the previous 12 months and (3) current use of asthma treatment. We assigned children negative to all three features as a non-asthmatic control group.

Results Spirometry was available for 630 children (325 boys, age range 13.1–16.9 years), of whom 74 (11.7%) had current asthma and 403 were assigned as non-asthmatic controls. FEV1/FVC was significantly lower among asthmatics (84.1% vs. 89.2%, p < 0.001, Figure 1). Ten children (1.6%) had FEV1/FVC <70% (two in asthma group). Discriminative ability of FEV1/FVC < 70% was poor (Receiver operating characteristic curve, AUC = 0.70; sensitivity = 2.7% [2/74], specificity = 98.8% [398/403]). For the calculated FEV1/FVC LLN (74.8% for boys, 78.2% for girls), 28 children (4.4%) had FEV1/FVC<LLN (11 in asthma group). Discriminative ability of FEV1/FVC<LLN was poor (sensitivity 14.9% [11/74]; specificity 97.0% [391/403]). BDR was positive in 54 children (8.7%), of whom 12 had asthma. Discriminative ability of BDR was poor (AUC = 0.64, sensitivity = 16.2% [12/74], specificity = 93.5% [373/399]). Combining these two tests did not result in a better diagnostic accuracy (sensitivity = 2.7%, specificity = 99.0%).

Conclusions FEV1/FVC < 70% or <LLN, and BDR > 12% have a poor diagnostic accuracy as tests for childhood asthma.

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