INTRODUCTION: Systematic assessment of patients with severe asthma is pivotal to decide which patients are eligible to new biological therapies. However, the level of diagnostic work-up in patients with severe asthma is only poorly investigated.
AIMS & OBJECTIVES: To describe the diagnostic work-up in a complete population of patients with severe asthma including: objective confirmation of the asthma diagnosis, and identification of potential treatment barriers, such as poor adherence and poor inhaler technique.
METHODS: A retrospective cross-sectional multicenter study was performed in 2013. We evaluated patient record forms of all patients (aged 18-65 years) consecutively referred with asthma to one of five respiratory outpatient clinics over two years. Patients were included in the study, if they fulfilled ERS/ATS guidelines for having severe asthma.
RESULTS: Among 1563 patients with asthma, 98 (6.3%) patients fulfilled the criteria for having severe asthma. The diagnosis of asthma was confirmed objectively in 53/98 patients (54.1%). In total, 83.7% underwent at least one diagnostic test for asthma: reversibility test: 63.3%, PEF: 52% and bronchial challenge test: 21.4%. Among patients eligible for a bronchial challenge test (FEV1 ≥ 70%; negative PEF measurement/reversibility test), only 23.1% had such a test performed. Inhalation technique and adherence were assessed in 19.4 and 30.6% of patients, respectively.
CONCLUSION: Among patients managed for severe asthma in a specialist setting, only half had the asthma diagnosis confirmed objectively, and adherence and inhaler technique were infrequently assessed.