European Respiratory Society

High-altitude treatment in atopic and nonatopic patients with severe asthma

Lucia H. Rijssenbeek-Nouwens, Karin B. Fieten, Adriaan O. Bron, Simone Hashimoto, Elisabeth H. Bel, Els J. Weersink


The beneficial effects of high-altitude treatment in asthma have been attributed to allergen avoidance. Recent evidence shows that this treatment also improves airway inflammation in nonallergic patients. We hypothesised that high-altitude treatment is clinically equally effective in patients with severe refractory asthma, with or without allergic sensitisation.

In a prospective observational cohort study, 137 adults with severe refractory asthma (92 with allergic sensitisation), referred for high-altitude (1,600 m) treatment in Davos, Switzerland, were consecutively included. We measured asthma control (Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ)), asthma-related quality of life (Asthma-Related Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ)), sino-nasal symptoms (Sino-Nasal Outcome Test (SNOT-20)), medication requirement, postbronchodilator (post-BD) forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), 6-min walking distance (6MWD), total immunoglobulin (Ig)E, blood eosinophils and exhaled nitric oxide fraction (FeNO) at admission and after 12 weeks.

Sensitised and nonsensitised patients showed similar improvements in ACQ (-1.4 and -1.5, respectively; p=0.79), AQLQ (1.6 and 1.5, respectively; p=0.94), SNOT-20 (-0.7 and -0.5, respectively; p=0.18), post-BD FEV1 (6.1% and 5.8% pred, respectively; p=0.87), 6MWD (+125 m and +147 m, respectively; p=0.43) and oral steroids (40% versus 44%, respectively; p=0.51). Sensitised patients showed a larger decrease in total IgE, blood eosinophils and FeNO.

High-altitude treatment improves clinical and functional parameters, and decreases oral corticosteroid requirement in patients with severe refractory asthma, irrespective of allergic sensitisation.


  • Received November 9, 2011.
  • Accepted February 19, 2012.
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