Accuracy of spirometry for detection of asthma: a cross-sectional study

<div><p>ABSTRACT BACKGROUND: Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease with airway hyperresponsiveness. Spirometry is the most commonly used test among asthmatic patients. Another functional test used for diagnosing asthma is the bronchial challenge test. The aim of this study was to analyze the accuracy of spirometry for detecting asthma in the general population. DESIGN AND SETTING: Cross-sectional study with data analysis to evaluate the accuracy of spirometry through calculating sensitivity, specificity and predictive values and through the kappa agreement test. METHODS: Subjects who constituted a birth cohort were enrolled at the age of 23 to 25 years. Spirometric abnormality was defined as reduced forced expiratory volume in one second, i.e. lower than 80% of the predicted value. Measurement of bronchial responsiveness was performed by means of the bronchial challenge test with methacholine. The gold-standard diagnosis of asthma was defined as the presence of bronchial hyperresponsiveness in association with respiratory symptoms. RESULTS: Asthma was detected in 200 subjects (10.4%) out of the sample of 1922 individuals. Spirometric abnormality was detected in 208 subjects (10.9%) of the sample. The specificity of spirometric abnormality for detecting asthma was 90%, sensitivity was 23%, positive predictive value was 22%, and negative predictive value was 91%. The kappa test revealed weak agreement of 0.13 (95% confidence interval, CI: 0.07-0.19) between spirometry and the diagnosis of asthma. CONCLUSION: Spirometry, as a single test, has limitations for detecting asthma in the general population.</p></div>