Published: 5 November 2020

Authors: Carmen C.M. de Jong, Eva S.L. Pedersen, Rebeca Mozun, Dominik Müller-Suter, Anja Jochmann, Florian Singer, Carmen Casaulta, Nicolas Regamey, Alexander Moeller, Cristina Ardura-Garcia, Claudia E. Kuehni

Source: This abstract has been sourced from NZ Respiratory Research Review Issue 182


    Introduction Diagnosing asthma in children remains a challenge because respiratory symptoms are not specific and vary over time.

    Aim In a real-life observational study, we assessed the diagnostic accuracy of respiratory symptoms, objective tests and two paediatric diagnostic algorithms (proposed by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)) in the diagnosis of asthma in school-aged children.

    Methods We studied children aged 5–17 years who were referred consecutively to pulmonary outpatient clinics for evaluation of suspected asthma. Symptoms were assessed by parental questionnaire. The investigations included specific IgE measurement or skin prick tests, measurement of exhaled nitric oxide fraction (FeNO), spirometry, body plethysmography and bronchodilator reversibility (BDR). Asthma was diagnosed by paediatric pulmonologists based on all available data. We assessed diagnostic accuracy of symptoms, tests and diagnostic algorithms by calculating sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), negative predictive value (NPV) and area under the curve (AUC).

    Results Among 514 participants, 357 (70%) were diagnosed with asthma. The combined sensitivity and specificity was highest for any wheeze (sensitivity=75%, specificity=65%), dyspnoea (sensitivity=56%, specificity=76%) and wheeze triggered by colds (sensitivity=58%, specificity=78%) or by exercise (sensitivity=55%, specificity=74%). Of the diagnostic tests, the AUC was highest for specific total airway resistance (sRtot; AUC=0.73) and lowest for the residual volume (RV)/total lung capacity (TLC) ratio (AUC=0.56). The NICE algorithm had sensitivity=69% and specificity=67%, whereas the GINA algorithm had sensitivity=42% and specificity=90%.

    Conclusion This study confirms the limited usefulness of single tests and existing algorithms for the diagnosis of asthma. It highlights the need for new and more appropriate evidence-based guidance.

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