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Patient weighting of importance of asthma symptoms


BACKGROUND Quality of life measures are increasingly important in evaluating outcomes in asthma. If some asthma symptoms are more troublesome to patients than others, this may affect their contribution to outcome measures. This study was designed to assess the relative importance of common symptoms in adults with asthma.

METHODS A postal survey using conjoint analysis was performed in 272 adults attending hospital outpatient clinics with moderately severe asthma. Patients were asked to chose between “symptom scenarios” offering different combinations of levels of five common asthma symptoms over one week. Two versions of the questionnaire were used with identical scenarios presenting symptoms in different orders. Different patients answered the two versions. Regression analysis was used to calculate symptom weights for daytime cough, breathlessness, wheeze and chest tightness, and sleep disturbance.

RESULTS Symptom order, percentage predicted peak expiratory flow (PEF), and symptoms in the week before the survey did not influence the choice of scenario. In both questionnaires patients were more likely to choose scenarios with low levels of cough and breathlessness than low sleep disturbance, wheeze or chest tightness. Regression weights for cough (–0.52) and breathlessness (–0.49) were twice those of wheeze (–0.25), chest tightness (–0.27), and sleep disturbance (–0.25). For 12% of patients cough dominated patient preferences, regardless of all other symptoms. Age was inversely related to weight given by patients to breathlessness.

CONCLUSIONS The prominence of cough among other asthma symptoms was unexpected. Daytime cough and breathlessness had greater impact for patients than wheeze or sleep disturbance. Age influenced symptom burden, with younger patients giving greater weight to breathlessness than older patients. Conjoint analysis appears to be a useful method for establishing the relative importance of common symptoms.

  • conjoint analysis
  • cough
  • asthma
  • quality of life

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