Current bronchodilator responsiveness criteria underestimate asthma in older adults

Rodrigo S. Cavallazzi, Barbara J. Polivka, Bryan L. Beatty, Demetra E. Antimisiaris, Rangaraj K. Gopalraj, Rachel A. Vickers-Smith, Rodney J. Folz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Asthma is common in older adults and is confirmed by demonstration of variable expiratory air-flow limitations, typically evaluated by spirometric assessment of bronchodilator responsiveness. However, many patients with clinically suspected asthma and documented air-flow obstruction do not exhibit a post-bronchodilator response that meets or exceeds current established guidelines. We investigated if extending the time from bronchodilator administration to assessment of bronchodilator response increases the yield of spirometry for the diagnosis of asthma in older adults. METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study. The subjects were nonsmokers, ≥ 60 y old, and with suspected asthma. Subjects were characterized as (1) those with a positive bronchodilator response on the 30-min post-bronchodilator spirometry, (2) those with a positive bronchodilator response on the 60-min post-bronchodilator spirometry, and (3) those without a positive bronchodilator response but with a positive methacholine challenge test. Factors associated with a late response to bronchodilator were evaluated by using bivariate analysis and by multivariate analysis by using a logistic regression model. RESULTS: This study enrolled 165 subjects. Of these, 81 (49.1%) had a positive bronchodilator response on 30-min post-bronchodilator spirometry; 25 (15.2%) had a positive bronchodilator response on the 1-h post-bronchodilator spirometry; and 59 (35.8%) had no positive bronchodilator response but had a positive methacholine challenge test. On multivariable regression analysis, those with a higher baseline percentage of predicted FEV1, higher scores on a standard asthma control test, and wheezing and/or cough after exercise were more likely to either have a late bronchodilator response or no bronchodilator response. CONCLUSIONS: Our study showed that a late positive response to bronchodilator use was more common than previously presumed in older subjects with suspected asthma. Pulmonary function testing laboratories should consider routinely reassessing spirometry at 1 h after bronchodilator use if the earlier assessment did not reveal a sig nificant response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1104-1111
Number of pages8
JournalRespiratory Care
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Daedalus Enterprises.


  • Aging
  • Albuterol
  • Asthma
  • Bronchodilator effect
  • Lung diseases
  • Older adult
  • Spirometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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