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Analysis of bronchial reactivity in epidemiological studies.
  1. M J Abramson,
  2. N A Saunders,
  3. M J Hensley
  1. Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Newcastle, Australia.


    The measurement of bronchial reactivity in epidemiological studies has the advantage of quantifying an objective physiological feature of asthma. Bronchial reactivity was developed in a clinical setting and has been conventionally expressed as the dose of agonist producing a 20% fall in FEV1 (PD20). As PD20 can be estimated for less than 20% of subjects in general community surveys with the doses of agonist that are usually given, data from most subjects must be censored. Thus PD20 alone is a poor index of bronchial reactivity for epidemiological studies. Data from 809 aluminium smelter workers were used to evaluate alternative methods of analysing bronchial reactivity. Dose-response relationships were analysed by four methods: (1) PD20 by the conventional method of interpolating the dose on a logarithmic scale between the last two measurements of FEV1; (2) PD20 (with allowance for extrapolation), estimated by fitting an exponential curve to the dose-response data; (3) the linear regression slope between dose and FEV1 when significant; (4) the dose-response slope obtained in all subjects as the % change in FEV1 from baseline in response to total dose. When each of these measures was related to symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of asthma, all differentiated between "asthmatic" and "non-asthmatic" subjects. The dose-response slope (method 4) had the advantages of simplicity and no censored data, and was shown to be clinically relevant. It is suggested that the dose-response slope should be used for the analysis of bronchial reactivity in epidemiological studies.

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