BACKGROUND--Most studies that describe circadian variations in asthma have used maximum rate of peak expiratory flow (PEF) rather than forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) to assess airway calibre. This study was designed to assess circadian variations in PEF and FEV1 measured simultaneously and to compare variations in these measurements in normal and asthmatic subjects in a stable clinical state. METHODS--Twenty nine subjects (nine asthmatic subjects on bronchodilators, 10 on inhaled steroids, and 10 normal controls) were asked to record their PEF and FEV1 with a new portable instrument every two hours during the day and once on waking at night for two weeks. Circadian variations were examined in different ways using arithmetical indices and cosinor analysis. RESULTS--78% of PEF values and 75% of FEV1 values were considered to be reproducible and were included in the analysis. Variations obtained using PEF did not differ from those obtained using FEV1. Significant cosinor variations were found in at least 50% of recording days for most of the subjects and showed the same features as for arithmetical indices. Daily variations in PEF and FEV1 were significantly correlated with airway calibre and PC20 methacholine (r approximately 0.5 to approximately 0.6). CONCLUSIONS--PEF is as satisfactory as FEV1 for describing circadian variations among normal subjects and stable asthmatic subjects.
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