Richard D. Deshazo, MD



Diagnosing asthma in seniors: An algorithmic approach

October 01, 2008

ABSTRACT: The diagnosis of asthma in older persons may becomplicated by a number of factors, including atypical presentationsand comorbid conditions, such as chronic obstructivepulmonary disease and congestive heart failure (CHF). Ahigh index of suspicion for the diagnosis of asthma is warrantedin patients with isolated dyspnea or cough. The diagnosisshould be based on demonstration of reversible airwayobstruction on pulmonary function tests. Additional tests thatmay be useful in the initial evaluation include chest radiography,arterial blood gas analysis, and standard electrocardiography.CT may help exclude pulmonary embolism and certainneoplasms that can masquerade as asthma. High-resolutionCT scans are valuable when pulmonary function testresults are consistent with interstitial lung disease. When thediagnosis is uncertain, measurement of brain natriuretic peptidecan help distinguish between obstructive lung disease andCHF. (J Respir Dis. 2008;29(10):391-396)