Background: Many children with asthma go into long-term clinical remission at adolescence, but bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) persists in some of these subjects. BHR in asthma is characterized by an increase in sensitivity and in maximal airway response to bronchoconstrictor stimuli.
Objective: The aims of this study were to compare the profiles of maximal airway response between adolescents with asthma remission and adolescents with symptomatic asthma to a similar degree of airway hypersensitivity, and to determine whether maximal airway response in adolescents with asthma remission is reduced by prolonged treatment with inhaled corticosteroids.
Methods: A high-dose methacholine inhalation test was performed in 46 adolescents with long-term asthma remission (remission group) and 44 adolescents with symptomatic asthma (symptomatic group). Subjects exhibiting a maximal response plateau in the remission group were administered inhaled budesonide (400 μg bid, budesonide/remission group, n = 15) or identical placebo (placebo/remission group, n = 15) for 6 months, and the subjects in the symptomatic group were administered the same regimen of budesonide (budesonide/symptomatic group, n = 17). The plateau level was measured after 3 months and 6 months of treatment.
Results: Thirty-four subjects (73.9%) in the remission group featured a maximal response plateau on the dose-response curve to methacholine, whereas 19 subjects (43.2%) in the symptomatic group had a plateau (p = 0.003). In neither the placebo/remission group nor the budesonide/remission group did the plateau level change significantly over the 6-month period, whereas budesonide markedly decreased the level in the budesonide/symptomatic group.
Conclusion: The difference in frequency of detection of a plateau between the remission group and the symptomatic group, as well as the difference in its response to treatment with budesonide between the two groups, suggests that inflammatory changes impact the maximal airway response in symptomatic asthmatic adolescents but not in adolescents with asthma remission.