A simple, handheld test has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to help clinicians in the diagnosis and management of asthma.
It has recommended three devices – NIOX MINO, NIOX VERO and NObreath – to measure the levels of fractional-exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) a patient is breathing out that are indicative of inflammation associated with asthma.
The institute’s guidance recommends nitric oxide testing as an option in diagnosing suspected cases of asthma. But it says other tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis as recommended by the British guideline on the management of asthma.
“The measurements can reveal whether they are taking their medication as prescribed”
Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE health technology evaluation centre, said: “Using these devices can provide additional information for clinicians about those people who, following clinical examination, are considered to have an intermediate probability of having asthma.”
In patients already diagnosed with asthma, NICE said measuring nitric oxide levels to guide treatment “was likely to reduce asthma attacks” and could reveal whether patients are following their drug regimen.
Professor Longson said: “In people already diagnosed with asthma, measuring nitric oxide levels to guide their asthma management is likely to reduce asthma attacks. The measurements can reveal whether they are taking their medication as prescribed.”
Senior nurse practitioner Carol Stonham, who runs a respiratory clinic at Minchinhampton Surgery in Gloucestershire, said: “FeNO has been a standard part of our asthma tool kit for some years now and it has enhanced the care we give to our patients.
“You can take an accurate reading in minutes and the technology will assist in an accurate diagnosis,” she added.