Comparison of two methods of processing induced sputum: Selected versus entire sputum

Antonio Spanevello, Bianca Beghé, Achille Bianchi, Giovanni Battista Migliori, Marco Ambrosetti, Margherita Neri, Philip W. Ind

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Sputum analysis is increasingly used to assess airway inflammation in asthma. The analysis of sputum is currently performed with two techniques, i.e., analysis of selected sputum (plugs) and analysis of entire sputum. To investigate the diagnostic value of these two methods, we compared total and differential cell counts and supernatant eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) in selected and entire sputum collected on two occasions in a group of healthy and asthmatic subjects. We induced sputum with hypertonic saline in 18 asthmatics and in eight healthy subjects. On one occasion we analyzed selected sputum, and on another occasion we analyzed entire sputum. In each sample we measured total and differential cell counts and ECP concentration in supernatant. We found a higher percentage of eosinophils (15.3 versus 8.3%; p <0.01), more viable nonsquamous cells (80.6 versus 71.8%; p <0.01), and higher levels of ECP (548 versus 105 μg/L; p <0.001) in selected sputum as compared with entire sputum, whereas the percentage of neutrophils was higher in the entire sputum (42.7 versus 33.3%; p <0.05). The percentage of eosinophils and ECP concentration were significantly and similarly increased in both selected and entire sputum of asthmatic subjects, i.e., independent of the method of sputum analysis. In conclusion, the selected sputum method may indeed provide more viable cells, more eosinophils, and a higher concentration of ECP. However, both the selected sputum and the entire sputum method have the same diagnostic value in distinguishing asthmatics from healthy subjects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)665-668
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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