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Original Article


Duration of Asthma and Lung Function in Life-Long Nonsmoking Adults


JM Olaguibel Rivera, MJ Alvarez-Puebla, M Puy Uribe San Martín, ML Tallens Armand

Allergology Section, Lung Function Laboratory, Hospital Virgen del Camino, Pamplona, Spain

J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 2007; Vol. 17(4): 236-241



Background: The airways of adult or elderly asthmatics are likely candidates for airway remodeling, resulting in persistent airflow obstruction.
This population can provide a good model for cross-sectional evaluation of the effect of asthma duration on airflow.

Methods: We evaluated postbronchodilator airfl ow and lung volumes at baseline and after a short course of oral prednisone in a group of 42 never-smokers with persistent mild or moderate asthma aged 55 years or older. Patients were grouped as having short duration asthma (SDA, < 14 years) or long duration asthma (LDA, ≥ 14 years) according to the median duration of the disease (14 years) of the sample.

Results: There were no significant differences in patient characteristics or asthma severity indices between the groups. After a short course of prednisone, forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and the ratio of FEV1 to forced vital capacity (FVC) were significantly higher for the SDA group. Only 3 patients presented persistent airfl ow limitation (FEV1/FVC% < 75%). An inverse correlation was demonstrated between duration of asthma and postbronchodilator FEV1 (% predicted) (r = –0.43, P = .01) and FEV1/FVC% (r = –0.50, P = .003).

Conclusion: Our data show a close relationship between duration of disease and loss of lung function, supporting the concept of asthma as a slow, progressive disease at least among those patients with a mild-to-moderate severity. Permanent airfl ow obstruction in mild or moderate asthma is unusual, but can occur in a small number suffering from the disease for years.

Key words: Asthma. Airway remodeling. Airflow obstruction. Lung function decline.