Asthma exacerbations are associated with a decline in lung function: a longitudinal population-based study

Seyi Soremekun, Liam G Heaney, Derek Skinner, Lakmini Bulathsinhala, Victoria Carter, Isha Chaudhry, Naeimeh Hosseini, Neva Eleangovan, Ruth Murray, Trung N Tran, Benjamin Emmanuel, Esther Garcia Gil, Andrew Menzies-Gow, Matthew Peters, Njira Lugogo, Rupert Jones, David B Price

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Rationale: Progressive lung function (LF) decline in patients with asthma contributes to worse outcomes. Asthma exacerbations are thought to contribute to this decline; however, evidence is limited with mixed results.

Methods: This historical cohort study of a broad asthma patient population in the Optimum Patient Care Research Database, examined asthma patients with 3+eligible post-18th birthday peak expiratory flow rate (PEF) records (primary analysis) or records of forced expiratory flow in 1 s (FEV1) (sensitivity analysis). Adjusted linear growth models tested the association between mean annual exacerbation rate (AER) and LF trajectory.

Results: We studied 1 09 182 patients with follow-up ranging from 5 to 50 years, of which 75 280 had data for all variables included in the adjusted analyses. For each additional exacerbation, an estimated additional −1.34 L/min PEF per year (95% CI −1.23 to –1.50) were lost. Patients with AERs >2/year and aged 18–24 years at baseline lost an additional −5.95 L/min PEF/year (95% CI −8.63 to –3.28) compared with those with AER 0. These differences in the rate of LF decline between AER groups became progressively smaller as age at baseline increased. The results using FEV1 were consistent with the above.

Conclusion: To our knowledge, this study is the largest nationwide cohort of its kind and demonstrates that asthma exacerbations are associated with faster LF decline. This was more prominent in younger patients but was evident in older patients when it was related to lower starting LF, suggesting a persistent deteriorating phenotype that develops in adulthood over time. Earlier intervention with appropriate management in younger patients with asthma could be of value to prevent excessive LF decline.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date03 Aug 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 03 Aug 2022


  • asthma


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