Study objectives: To determine whether methacholine challenge testing (MCT) provokes vocal cord dysfunction (VCD), as evidenced by inspiratory vocal cord closure on direct laryngoscopy, and whether spirometry and flow-volume loops (FVLs) demonstrate any changes that are suggestive of VCD.
Design: Prospective, controlled study.
Setting: Army medical center.
Patients: Thirty-four subjects all with normal baseline spirometry. Ten subjects had documented evidence of VCD, 12 subjects had exercise-induced asthma (EIA) and reactive MCT, and 12 subjects served as healthy asymptomatic control subjects.
Methods: Measurement of spirometry with FVLs and direct laryngoscopy of the vocal cords performed immediately before and after subjects had undergone MCT.
Results: Evidence of inspiratory vocal cord adduction was found in four VCD patients. Two patients had adducted vocal cords at baseline, and their conditions were unchanged after undergoing MCT. Two other patients had normal conditions at baseline and demonstrated acute inspiratory vocal cord adduction after undergoing MCT. None of the patients in the EIA or control groups had evidence of VCD at baseline or after undergoing MCT. Truncation of the inspiratory limb of the FVL after MCT was noted in five patients, which correlated with evidence of VCD in 60% of these patients. One EIA patient had truncation of the inspiratory FVL after MCT, and no changes were found in the control group. A comparison of spirometry between EIA patients and VCD patients with and without evidence of inspiratory vocal cord adduction during MCT showed no significant differences.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that MCT may cause an acute episode of vocal cord adduction and that positive results may not reflect underlying reactive airways disease. However, a flattening or truncation of the inspiratory FVL after the patient undergoes MCT is not diagnostic for the presence of inspiratory vocal cord adduction.