Peak expiratory flow (PEF) monitoring is recommended in asthma guidelines as a tool for assessing severity, monitoring response to treatment, detecting exacerbations, identifying triggers, and providing objective justification for treatment to the patient, but some clinicians have expressed concerns about its relevance in the management of asthma. We have identified a sevenfold variation in the scale of existing PEF charts, with resulting wide variation in the appearance of the same PEF date on different charts. There is an obvious need for standardisation of PEF charts to avoid confusion for patients and to allow development of pattern recognition skills by clinicians. Evidence is provided from visual perception studies to suggest that preference should be given to a horizontally compressed PEF chart to facilitate identification of exacerbations and of overall trends, but this needs to be formally evaluated by retrospective and prospective studies. It is hoped that clinical expertise in PEF pattern recognition can eventually be incorporated into electronic decision making algorithms, as has occurred in occupational asthma, but, in the meantime, the ideal PEF chart for asthma management will represent a compromise between ease of manual data entry and ease of interpretation.
- peak expiratory flow charts
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The authors have no competing financial or other interests. The prototype PEF chart referred to in the text is distributed free of charge to patients.