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Asthma reviews in children: what have we learned?
  1. Mark L Levy1,
  2. Louise Fleming2,3
  1. 1 Locum General Practitioner, London, UK
  2. 2 Imperial College London, London, UK
  3. 3 Department of Paediatrics, Royal Brompton Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mark L Levy, Locum General Practitioner, London, UK; mark-levy{at}btconnect.com

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Asthma is a complex chronic disease, characterised by intermittent respiratory symptoms, airway inflammation and reversible airflow obstruction, without the availability of a single confirmatory diagnostic test. Management of this disease involves many challenges for primary care physicians. These include diagnosis, monitoring, identifying risk and chronic as well as acute management; furthermore, it is challenging to maintain up to date knowledge of asthma to facilitate good quality patient education. Primary care clinicians with their limited availability of routine appointments, plus the vast spectrum of medical conditions they manage, are generalists and cannot be experts in every clinical condition. Although these health professionals develop skills in quickly assessing patients and making decisions for urgent or delayed management, the initial challenge is to accurately diagnose chronic diseases and second having the confidence and knowledge to manage these complex diseases in the community. In the case of asthma, diagnosis and monitoring are frequently based on reporting of symptoms, which are limited by their lack of specificity and patient recall.

Considerable controversy1 2 surrounds the recent UK recommendations3 that primary care physicians should include spirometry and fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) in diagnosing asthma in the UK. Neither quality assured spirometry nor FeNO is widely available in primary care. This is further complicated because asthma patients may have normal spirometry when tested and this would potentially need to be repeated on a number of occasions to demonstrate reversible airflow obstruction, which is totally impractical in primary (or secondary) care settings. Peak flow diaries are a practical alternative in these cases.4 5 In their prospective …

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Footnotes

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  • Contributors MLL and LF: prepared the editorial and represented their personal opinions.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests MLL reports personal fees and honoraria for lectures from: TEVA, Astra Zeneca, Soar Beyond, Orion and Menarini, Napp, Novartis Pharmaceuticals; Expert Consultancy fees: from National Services for Health Improvement, Chiesi, Orion, Menarini, Novartis, Boehringer Ingelheim, Glaxo Smith Klein, Trudel, and Clement Clarke International; Travel support from GINA; and grants from Conzorcio Futuro In Ricerca. LF is an Asthma UK Senior Clinical Fellow. In the past 3 years, LF has received honoraria to speak at sponsored meetings from Novartis and Teva and for expert consultation from Novartis, GSK, Vectura, Astra Zeneca and Boehringer-Ingelheim. All fees have been paid direct to her institution.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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