A comparison of work-exacerbated asthma cases from clinical and epidemiological settings
P Henneberger | X Liang | C Lemière
BACKGROUND: Clinical and epidemiological studies commonly use different case definitions in different settings when investigating work-exacerbated asthma (WEA). These differences are likely to impact characteristics of the resulting WEA cases.
OBJECTIVES: To investigate this issue by comparing two groups of WEA cases, one identified using an intensive clinical evaluation and another that fulfilled epidemiological criteria.
METHODS: A total of 53 clinical WEA cases had been referred for suspected work-related asthma to two tertiary clinics in Canada, where patients completed tests that confirmed asthma and ruled out asthma caused by work. Forty-seven epidemiological WEA cases were employed asthma patients treated at a health maintenance organization in the United States who completed a questionnaire and spirometry, and fulfilled criteria for WEA based on self-reported, work-related worsening of asthma and relevant workplace exposures as judged by an expert panel.
RESULTS: Using different case criteria in different settings resulted in case groups that had a mix of similarities and differences. The clinical WEA cases were more likely to have visited a doctor’s office ≥3 times for asthma in the past year (75% versus 11%; P<0.0001), but did not seek more asthma-related emergency or in-patient care, or have lower spirometry values. The two groups differed substantially according to the industries and occupations where the cases worked.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings from both types of studies should be considered when measuring the contribution of work to asthma exacerbations, identifying putative agents, and selecting industries and occupations in which to implement screening and surveillance programs.