The relevance of small airway dysfunction in asthma with nocturnal symptoms

ALLIANCE Study Group as part of the German Centre for Lung Research (DZL)

14 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: Small airway dysfunction (SAD) is a frequent feature of asthma that has been linked to disease severity and poor symptom control. However, little is known about the role of SAD in nocturnal asthma. Objective: To study the association between the severity of SAD and frequency of nocturnal symptoms compared to conventional lung function testing. Methods: We assessed the frequency of self-reported nocturnal symptoms through the asthma control test. We studied the impact of nocturnal asthma using the Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ) and the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI-20). We assessed the lung function using spirometry, body plethysmography, impulse oscillometry, single and multiple inert gas washout and measured markers of T2-inflammation (blood and sputum eosinophils; fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNo)). We stratified the patients according to the presence and frequency of nocturnal asthma. Results: A total of 166 asthma patients were enrolled in the analysis. Eighty-seven patients (52%) reported to have nocturnal symptoms at least once in the last four weeks. The odds ratio of nocturnal asthma correlated with the severity of all non-spirometric measures of SAD, yet neither with airflow obstruction (FEV1 and FEV/FVC) nor with large airway resistance (R20). Patients with frequent nocturnal asthma (n = 29) had a numerical increase of T2 markers and more severe SAD, as indicated by all non-spirometric measures of SAD (all p-values < 0.05), worse overall asthma control, increased fatigue and reduced quality of life (all p-values < 0.01) compared to patients with infrequent nocturnal asthma (n = 58) or patients without nocturnal asthma (n = 79). We identified 63 patients without airflow obstruction, nearly 43% of them (n = 27) had nocturnal asthma. In this subgroup, only markers of air trapping and ventilation heterogeneity were significantly elevated and correlated with the frequency of nocturnal symptoms: LCI (Spearman’s coefficient = −0.42, p < 0.001), RV% (−0.32, p = 0.02). Conclusion: SAD is closely associated to asthma with nocturnal symptoms. Spirometry might underestimate the broad spectrum of distal lung function impairments in this population of patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Asthma and Allergy
Pages (from-to)897-905
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 205-13 Pneumology, Thoracal Surgery

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