Diagnosis of concomitant inducible laryngeal obstruction and asthma

Joy W. Lee, Tunn Ren Tay, Paul Paddle, Amanda L. Richards, Lisa Pointon, Miriam Voortman, Michael J. Abramson, Ryan Hoy, Mark Hew

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29 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Inducible laryngeal obstruction, an induced, inappropriate narrowing of the larynx, leading to symptomatic upper airway obstruction, can coexist with asthma. Accurate classification has been challenging because of overlapping symptoms and the absence of sensitive diagnostic criteria for either condition. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate patients with concomitant clinical suspicion for inducible laryngeal obstruction and asthma. We used a multidisciplinary protocol incorporating objective diagnostic criteria to determine whether asthma, inducible laryngeal obstruction, both, or neither diagnosis was present. METHODS: Consecutive patients were prospectively assessed by a laryngologist, speech pathologist and respiratory physician. Inducible laryngeal obstruction was diagnosed by visualizing paradoxical vocal fold motion either at baseline or following mannitol provocation. Asthma was diagnosed by physician assessment with objective variable airflow obstruction. Validated questionnaires for laryngeal dysfunction and relevant comorbidities were administered. RESULTS: Of 69 patients, 15 had asthma alone, 11 had inducible laryngeal obstruction alone and 14 had neither objectively demonstrated. Twenty-nine patients had both diagnoses. In 19 patients, inducible laryngeal obstruction was only seen following provocation. Among patients with inducible laryngeal obstruction, chest tightness was more frequent with concurrent asthma. Among patients with asthma, stridor was more frequent with concurrent inducible laryngeal obstruction. Cough was more frequently found in asthma alone, whereas difficulty with inspiration and symptoms triggered by psychological stress were more frequently found in inducible laryngeal obstruction alone. Patients with asthma alone had greater airflow obstruction. Relevant comorbidities were frequent (rhinitis in 85%, gastro-oesophageal reflux in 65%), and questionnaire scores for laryngeal dysfunction were abnormal. However, neither comorbidities nor questionnaires differentiated patients with or without inducible laryngeal obstruction. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: In this cohort with suspected inducible laryngeal obstruction and asthma, 42% had objective evidence of both conditions. Clinical assessment, questionnaire scores and comorbidity burden were not sufficiently discriminatory for diagnosis, highlighting the necessity of objective diagnostic testing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1622-1630
Number of pages9
JournalClinical and Experimental Allergy
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • asthma
  • inducible laryngeal obstruction
  • larynx
  • mannitol
  • paradoxical vocal fold motion

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