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What is bronchoprovocation testing?

Bronchoprovocation Testing

Bronchoprovocation testing includes several tests used to diagnose asthma. Asthma is a chronic lung disease marked by acute flare-ups of inflammation and swelling of the airways in the lungs. 

Bronchoprovocation tests measure lung function after exposure to common asthma symptom triggers. Asthma triggers used in the test include cold air, exercise, or inhaling a mist containing a substance that causes lung constriction in people with asthma. 

Bronchoprovocation testing is only one method to diagnose asthma. Discuss all the asthma-testing options with your doctor to understand which choices are right for you.  

Types of bronchoprovocation testing

The types of bronchoprovocation testing include:

  • Cold air challenge test, which measures how the lungs react to exposure to cold air 
  • Exercise challenge test, which measures how the lungs react to exercise on a treadmill 
  • Inhalation tests, which measure how the lungs react to exposure to substances that cause lung constriction in people with asthma. The substances are dissolved in a mist that you inhale. The substance is often methacholine. Histamine or mannitol may also be used. 

Other procedures that may be performed

Bronchoprovocation tests are a type of pulmonary (lung) function test. Your doctor will likely recommend other pulmonary function tests to diagnose asthma and monitor your condition. Other pulmonary function tests include:

  • Arterial blood gas test to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood 
  • Body plethysmography to determine how much air is present in your lungs when you take a deep breath. It also measures how much air is left in your lungs after you exhale. Bronchoprovocation tests and other pulmonary function tests can be done at the same time as a body plethysmography using the same equipment.
  • Lung diffusion capacity to measure how well oxygen moves into your blood from your lungs 
  • Peak expiratory flow to measure the speed of exhaling and lung constriction. People with asthma often use this test routinely to monitor their asthma control at home.
  • Pulse oximetry to measure oxygen levels in the blood
  • Spirometry to measure the rate and the amount of air that you inhale and exhale 
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 7, 2013

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Medical References

Bronchoprovocation testing. Wolters Kluwer Health. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/bronchoprovocation-testing. Accessed April 22, 2013.
Bronchoprovocation tests in children and adults. World Allergy Association. http://www.worldallergy.org/UserFiles/file/Bronchial%20provocation%20tests-Rosenwasser.pdf. Accessed April 22, 2013.
Lung function Tests. Providence Health & Services. http://appsor.providence.org/healthlibrary/contentviewer.aspx?hwid=hw5022. Accessed April 22, 2013.
Methacholine Challenge Testing: Identifying Its Diagnostic Role, Testing, Coding, and Reimbursement. American College of Chest Physicians. http://journal.publications.chestnet.org/article.aspx?articleid=1085169#Contraindications. Accessed April 22, 2013.
Pulmonary Function Test: Methacholine Challenge Test. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/p/pulmonarytest-methacoline/. Accessed April 22, 2013.
When should a methacholine challenge be ordered for a patient with suspected asthma? Cleveland Clinic. http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/ccjm/January2008/swartz.htm. Accessed April 22, 2013.

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