Numerous studies have examined the relationship between the fractional concentration of exhaled nitric oxide (Feno) and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). Our objective was to determine the effects of age on the relationship between Feno and AHR in asthmatic children.
AHR was examined in 267 asthmatic patients (age range, 5 to 20 years). A challenge test was performed using acetylcholine chloride (Ach). We determined the provocative concentration of Ach producing a 20% decrease in FEV1 from baseline (PC20). Feno was examined using the recommended online method before the Ach challenge test.
In children < 12 years of age (range, 5 to 11 years), decreasing AHR (PC20) was significantly related to higher Feno (r = −0.43; β = −0.28; p < 0.001). In adolescents ≥ 12 years of age (range, 12 to 20 years), decreasing PC20 was associated with peripheral airway obstruction (FEV1: r = 0.32; β = 5.5; p = 0.002; forced expiratory flow at 50% of the FVC: r = 0.24; β=8.4; p = 0.006; and forced expiratory flow at 25% of FVC: r = 0.28; β=11.4; p = 0.002). AHR and Feno were weakly related (r = −0.18; β = −0.14; p = 0.02).
In children with asthma, AHR is associated with airway inflammation. AHR in children with asthma may consist of variable components mainly reflecting airway inflammation. In contrast, in adolescents with asthma, AHR is associated with airway structural changes and weakly with airway inflammation. AHR in adolescents with asthma may consist of chronic components mainly reflecting airway remodeling.