News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Asthma, misunderstood and misdiagnosed

25th March, 2007

Asthma, misunderstood and misdiagnosed

Many thousands of New Zealanders are being treated for asthma when in fact another condition may be the cause of their illness. Ground-breaking research is being discussed today at the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand’s Annual Scientific Meeting currently being held in Auckland.

Asthma is the leading respiratory disease diagnosed in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States, with more than 20% of the population diagnosed with the condition.

Three of the world’s leading asthma researchers, Professors Robin Taylor (University of Otago, New Zealand), Peter Gibson (John Hunter Hospital, Australia) and Ian Pavord (University of Leicester, England) have studied and validated a number of new tests which allow a more accurate assessment of the patient to be made. The tests can tell the clinician whether they are under-treating or over-treating the patient or whether in fact the diagnosis of asthma is accurate or not.

Damage to the small breathing tubes during childhood or adolescence when they are more vulnerable to damage may lead to symptoms which may mimic asthma. Making an accurate diagnosis is essential to good management and may save the country millions of dollars in medication costs.

The new tests, which are available only in a few New Zealand hospitals running clinical trials, suggest that a significant proportion of people being treated for asthma because of a chronic cough, wheeze or chest tightness, may in fact have other inflammatory conditions which respond better to other medications.

While the physicians are not suggesting people throw away their inhalers, they are saying that a few specific tests such as expired nitric oxide measurement, sputum analysis and CT scans can differentiate between true asthma and damaged airways. If the lung disease is not true asthma, patients will respond more readily to different medication regimens and will enjoy an improved quality of life.

“The challenge for the Thoracic Society will be to evaluate ways of transferring the results of tests undertaken in the laboratory into the clinical work place” said Dr Jeff Garrett, the local branch president of the Society. “The results of the studies currently being conducted in our leading hospitals in New Zealand will hopefully give us more direction”.

Asthma medications account for around $NZ60 - 80 million of pharmaceutical budget per year. Accurate diagnosis and evaluation of asthma severity could substantially reduce pharmaceutical costs.

For further information, please call Associate Professor Jeff Garrett, President, NZ Branch, Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and the Clinical Director of Medicine, Middlemore Hospital, ph 021 784 097.


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Facebook Announces New Changes: Combating Hate And Extremism

Some of these changes predate the tragic terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, but that attack, and the global response to it in the form of the Christchurch Call to Action, has strongly influenced the recent updates to our policies and their enforcement. More>>

Amazon Confirms: Lord Of The Rings Series To Shoot In NZ

Amazon Studios announced today that its series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s iconic fantasy novels The Lord of the Rings will shoot in New Zealand. Pre-production has started, and production on the series will begin in Auckland in the coming months. More>>


Birds: Dunedin's Bells Ring As City Celebrates Its Albatross

The city's churches, schools and public buildings bells would chime in unison from 1pm, in what has been a long-standing tradition marking the return of the birds - and a farewell to this season's albatross chicks. More>>

Oscar Buzz: Waititi's Jojo Rabbit Wins People's Choice Award At Toronto

Taika Waititi's new film Jojo Rabbit has nabbed the coveted Grolsch People's Choice Award at the close of Toronto International Film Festival. More>>


Broken Estate: An Expat Expert Surveys Our Media

Melanie Bunce cut her teeth in journalism at the Otago Daily Times. Now she teaches and researches it at one of the UK’s most prestigious journalism schools and tracks the trends that shape the uncertain future of news... More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland