Impact of Spirometry Race-Correction on Preadolescent Black and White Children

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J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract


BACKGROUND: Race-correction for Black patients is standard practice in spirometry testing. History suggests that these corrections are at least partially a result of racist assumptions regarding lung anatomy among Black individuals, which can potentially lead to less frequent diagnoses of pulmonary diseases in this population.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the impact of race-correction in spirometry testing among Black and White preadolescents, and examine the frequency of current asthma symptoms in Black children who were differentially classified depending on whether race-corrected or race-uncorrected reference equations were deployed.

METHODS: Data from Black and White children who completed a clinical examination at age 10 years from a Detroit-based unselected birth cohort were analyzed. Global Lung Initiative 2012 reference equations were applied to spirometry data using both race-corrected and race-uncorrected (ie, population-average) equations. Abnormal results were defined as values less than the fifth percentile. Asthma symptoms were assessed concurrently using the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood questionnaire, while asthma control was assessed using the Asthma Control Test.

RESULTS: The impact of race-correction on FEV1/FVC ratio was minimal, but abnormal classification of FEV1 results more than doubled among Black children when race-uncorrected equations were used (7% vs. 18.1%) and were almost 8 times greater based on FVC classification (1.5% vs. 11.4%). More than half of Black children differentially classified on FEV1 (whose FEV1 was classified as normal with race-corrected equations but abnormal with race-uncorrected equations) experienced asthma symptoms in the past 12 months (52.6%), which was significantly higher than Black children consistently classified as normal (35.5%, p=0.049), but similar to that of Black children consistently classified as abnormal using both race-corrected and race-uncorrected equations (62.5%, p=0.60). ACT scores were not different based on classification.

CONCLUSIONS: Race-correction had an extensive impact on spirometry classification in Black children, and differentially classified children had a higher rate of asthma symptoms than children consistently classified as normal. Spirometry reference equations should be reevaluated to be aligned with current scientific perspectives on the use of race in medicine.

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ePub ahead of print