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Mediators of Inflammation
Volume 11, Issue 5, Pages 293-298

Induced sputum is a reproducible method to assess airway inflammation in asthma

Cardiothoracic Department, University of Pisa, Italy U.O. Fisiopatologia Respiratoria, Ospedale di Cisanello, via Paradisa 2, Pisa 56124, Italy

Copyright © 2002 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


To evaluate the reproducibility of induced sputum analysis, and to estimate the sample size required to obtained reliable results, sputum was induced by hypertonic saline inhalation in 29 asthmatic subjects on two different days. The whole sample method was used for analysis, and inflammatory cells were counted on cytospin slides. Reproducibility, expressed by intra-class correlation coefficients, was good for macrophages (+0.80), neutrophils (+0.85), and eosinophils (+0.87), but not for lymphocytes (+0.15). Detectable differences were 5.5% for macrophages, 0.6% for lymphocytes, 5.2% for neutrophils, and 3.0% for eosinophils. We conclude that analysis of induced sputum is a reproducible method to study airway inflammation in asthma. Sample sizes greater than ours give little improvement in the detectable difference of eosinophil percentages.