European Respiratory Society


This last contribution to the series focuses on open questions regarding: 1) methodological issues; and 2) the potential clinical application of the noninvasive methods such as induced sputum and the analysis of exhaled air for the assessment of airway inflammation. In addition their potential future role in occupational health and the early diagnosis of neoplastic lesions are briefly discussed. The future clinical application of noninvasive methods will depend on the progress made to improve their practicability, particularly in rendering them less time consuming and cheaper. To assess their clinical value, prospective studies are needed to establish whether patients actually benefit from the results obtained. This is also important to implement the methods into the healthcare system and to obtain adequate financial compensation. Therefore, it is necessary to know: 1) whether the assessment of airwav inflammation can aid in coming to an earlier and better defined diagnosis; 2) whether by repeated monitoring it is possible to avoid exacerbations through earlier interventions; and 3) whether the long-term outcome of patients is improved through knowledge of the type and degree of airway inflammation that is taken into account in selecting the appropriate treatment. In the meantime a wealth of data has become available, both for induced sputum and the analysis of exhaled air, which give these methods the potential to be incorporated into future clinical practice. This, however, will, amongst the other issues, depend on favourable cost-benefit ratios which should also be the subject of future prospective studies.