Introduction: The current reference standard method for diagnosing occupational asthma (OA) is specific inhalation challenge (SIC) with the suspected agent. The alternative method is serial peak expiratory flow (PEF) monitoring. Nevertheless, PEF does not have optimal sensitivity and specificity for this purpose. The aim of this study was to evaluate the utility of exhaled breath condensate (EBC) pH for the diagnosis of OA. Material and Methods: A prospective study was performed in 37 subjects with suspected OA. Serial PEF monitoring was carried out for 2 weeks at work and for 2 weeks off work. At the end of each period, the EBC pH and the methacholine concentration resulting in a 20% FEV1 decrease (PC20) were measured. SIC was subsequently performed. PEF graphs were interpreted visually by 3 experienced independent readers. Results: Seventeen patients tested positive with SIC. Receiver-operating characteristic curves showed that a decrease in EBC pH greater than 0.4 units during the period at work compared to the off-work period achieved the most satisfactory sensitivity (40%, CI 19.4-66.5) and specificity (90%, CI 66.9-98.2) for diagnosing OA. When EBC pH findings were added to PEF results, the diagnostic yield of PEF generally increased. Other test combinations (e.g. EBC pH plus PC20 or EBC pH plus PC20 plus PEF) did not improve diagnostic performance. Conclusions: Acidification of EBC pH at work and adding the EBC pH measurement to PEF monitoring during periods at work and off work may be useful for improving the diagnosis of OA. Copyright © 2012 S. Karger AG, Basel.
- Exhaled breath condensate
- Occupational asthma
- Peak expiratory flow
- Specific inhalation challenge