“Our data suggests this is an accurate and feasible way to diagnose exercise-induced asthma (EIA) in patients who are not necessarily elite athletes,” says Dr. Jonathan Parsons, associate director of Ohio State’s Asthma Center, and principal investigator of the study.
The study results, which appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Asthma, demonstrate the overall effectiveness and tolerance of eucapnic voluntary hyperventilation testing (EVH), the recommended method utilized by the International Olympic Committee to diagnose exercise-induced asthma in elite athletes, to diagnose EIA in the majority of pulmonary patients.
“It is important to know how substantial a decline there may be in a patient’s lung function due to exercise. If we find the patient does have exercise-induced asthma, we can then provide personalized therapeutic treatment for these patients,” adds Parsons.
Exercise-induced asthma occurs when airflow to the lungs is reduced due to narrowing and closing of the airways in association with exercise. This airway obstruction usually occurs just after exercise and is much more common in college athletes than in the general population. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
To stress the lungs, clinicians use EVH testing, a technique which has proved to be an effective test for diagnosing EIA in athletes. Administered by medical staff in a controlled setting for six minutes, patients are asked to hyperventilate, which mimics intense exercise. Then, measurements of the lung function are evaluated to determine if there is a decrease in lung function from the stress of hyperventilation.
Ohio State researchers analyzed 178 EVH tests for evaluation of suspected EIA. Twenty-eight percent of the patient population (50 patients) was EIB-positive.
Overall, 81 percent (144 of 178) of patients were diagnostic according to EVH testing. In addition, females in the study appeared to have a lower threshold for experiencing EIA, as many females were found to have EIA despite relatively lower levels of hyperventilation during the six-minute test.
According to Parsons, further studies are needed to confirm the benefit of EVH testing in primary care settings and to further explore the possible sex disparity in the threshold of breathing intensity that triggers EIA in men versus women. EVH testing has been utilized in the general pulmonary population at Ohio State since 2005.
Along with Parsons, other Ohio State researchers who participated in the study were Nathan Brummel, John Mastronarde, David Rittinger and Gary Philips.