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OBJECTIVES: To identify and synthesize evidence on the diagnostic accuracy of FE NO for asthma in adults. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Systematic searches (nine key biomedical databases and trial registers) were carried out on November 2014. Records were included if they recruited patients with the symptoms of asthma; used a single set of inclusion criteria; measured FE NO50 in accordance with American Thoracic Society guidelines, 2005 (off-line excluded); reported/allowed calculation of true-positive, true-negative, false-positive and false-negative patients as classified against any reference standard. Study quality was assessed using QUADAS II. Meta-analysis was planned where clinical study heterogeneity allowed. Rule-in and rule-out uses of FE NO were considered. RESULTS: A total of 4861 records were identified originally and 1312 in an update. Twenty-seven studies were included. Heterogeneity precluded meta-analysis. Results varied even within subgroups of studies. Cut-off values for the best sum of sensitivity and specificity varied from 12 to 55 p.p.b., but did not produce high accuracy. 100% sensitivity or 100% specificity was reported by some studies indicating potential use as a rule-in or rule-out strategy. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: FE NO50 had variable diagnostic accuracy even within subgroups of studies with similar characteristics. Diagnostic accuracy, optimal cut-off values and best position for FE NO50 within a pathway remain poorly evidenced.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Exp Allergy

Publication Date





410 - 429


asthma, diagnosis, exhaled nitric oxide, meta-analysis, systematic review, Adult, Asthma, Biomarkers, Exhalation, Humans, Nitric Oxide, Respiratory Function Tests, Sensitivity and Specificity