BACKGROUND--The use of lung sound monitoring during bronchial provocation testing has not been clearly demonstrated. The appearance of wheeze and changes in inspiratory breath sound intensity have been analysed and related to changes in spirometric parameters and to airways hyperresponsiveness. METHODS--Lung sounds were recorded in 38 patients undergoing a routine carbachol airway challenge (CAC) test. Spirometric testing was performed before and after the inhalation of each of five cumulative doses of 320 micrograms carbachol; a fall in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) by 20% or more was considered as significant. Lung sound analysis was carried out using a computerised system. RESULTS--The CAC test was positive (CAC+) in 21 patients and negative (CAC-) in 17. At the final stage of the challenge, wheeze was identified in 10 positive patients (48%) and in one negative patient (6%); in non-wheezers the inspiratory breath sound intensity decreased significantly from baseline in 11 CAC+ patients (mean (SD) change -35 (24%)) but not in 16 CAC- patients (mean (SD) change 5 (24%)). In all non-wheezers a linear relationship was found between breath sound intensity and the squared inspiratory airflow (r = 0.53-0.92) which became looser after the inhalation of carbachol. CONCLUSION--When unertaking bronchial provocation testing the accurate identification of wheeze may prove useful in avoiding or shortening the test because of the presumed relationship between wheeze and airways hyperresponsiveness. Changes in breath sound intensity may also be useful, but further studies are required to define the threshold for significant changes in this index.
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