Accelerated decline in lung function in adults with a history of remitted childhood asthma

Background

A significant number of children with asthma show remission in adulthood. Although these adults are often diagnosed with COPD in later life, the effect of clinically remitted childhood asthma on the decline in lung function during adulthood is uncertain. We examined whether clinical remission of childhood asthma was associated with an accelerated decline in lung function in apparently nonasthmatic adults.

Methods

3584 participants (mean (range) age 48.1 (35–65) years) who did not have adulthood asthma and other lung diseases and had normal lung function at the baseline visit were included. They were categorised as those with remitted childhood asthma (n=121) and healthy controls (n=3463) according to their self-reported childhood asthma history. Spirometry was performed at baseline and follow-up visits.

Results

The mean follow-up was 5.3 years. Multivariate regression analysis showed that remitted childhood asthma and smoking were independently associated with a rapid decline in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC). Smoking was an independent predictor of a rapid decline in FEV1/FVC. The annual decline in FEV1 and FVC was significantly greater in participants with remitted childhood asthma than in healthy controls, and the differences remained significant after adjusting for the propensity score.

Conclusions

A history of clinically remitted childhood asthma is an independent risk factor for accelerated decline in lung function in adults. Remitted childhood asthma and smoking may additively accelerate the development of obstructive lung disease.