Frequent Asthma Attacks May Increase Loss of Lung Function

Vancouver, September 14, 2007 — The frequency of asthma attacks has been linked to declining lung function in a study by a Providence Health Care respirologist and his Dutch colleagues. The study, by Dr. Tony Bai of the James Hogg ICAPTURE Centre for Cardiovasular and Pulmonary Research at St. Paul’s Hospital and researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, was published in this month’s European Respiratory Journal.
When someone has an asthma attack, their airway becomes inflamed and this may change its structure permanently. This may result in a loss of lung function as it becomes harder to move enough air into and out of the lungs.

Progressive rates of decline in lung function in asthma has been well recognized but not fully explained. Many asthmatics retain normal or close to normal lung function throughout life, while others develop irreversible damage.

Bai and Dutch researchers looked for a link between the number of severe asthma attacks people suffered and a reduction in the amount of air they could breathe out in one second. This common measure of lung function is often referred to as the Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second (FEV1).

The reseachers studied 93 asthma patients who did not smoke over a period of ten years, spliting the group into people who had severe attacks often and those who had them rarely.

Over the duration of the study, the amount of air that could be breathed out in one second fell twice as quickly in those who had severe attacks often when compared with those who had them rarely. This suggests that their airways had changed more severely and were more obstructed.

“This study suggests that to help reduce the speed at which lung function gets worse, asthma therapy should aim to reduce the number of asthma attacks a person has and that this should be one of the main measures used when trying to find new drugs to treat asthma,” said Dr. Bai.

According to the Asthma Society of Canada, about than three million Canadians suffer from asthma, including more than 500,000 children. Approximately 500 people die from asthma each year in Canada.
Dr. Bai is an Internist and Respirologist at St. Paul 's Hospital and a Professor with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia.
Contact Gavin Wilson, Providence Health Care Communications
Pager 604-667-4397 Cell 604-312-4839 Tel. 604-806-8583