Laryngeal or vocal cord dysfunction has long been regarded as a mimic of asthma; however, recent evidence indicates that it may be a significant comorbid condition in patients with asthma.
We aimed to systematically estimate the prevalence of comorbid laryngeal dysfunction (LD) in adults with asthma and characterize its clinical impact on asthma.
Electronic databases were searched for relevant studies published until June 2019. Studies were included if LD was objectively defined by direct visualization of laryngeal movement. Outcomes included the prevalence of LD and its association with clinical asthma indicators, such as severity, control, and quality of life. Random effects meta-analyses were performed to calculate the estimates.
A total of 21 studies involving 1637 patients were identified. Overall, the pooled prevalence of LD in adults with asthma was 25% (95% CI = 15%-37%; I2 = 96%). Prevalence estimates differed according to the diagnostic test utilized, with the lowest overall prevalence (4% [95% CI = 0%-10%; I2 = 90%]) seen when LD was diagnosed by resting laryngoscopy without external stimuli; however, it was much higher when diagnosed by laryngoscopy studies utilizing an external trigger, such as exercise (38% [95% CI = 24%-53%; I2 = 90%]) or in studies using a computed tomography-based diagnostic protocol (36% [95% CI = 24%-49%; I2 = 78%]). Only 7 studies reported the associations between LD and clinical asthma indicators; inconsistencies between studies limited meaningful conclusions.
LD may be a common comorbidity in asthma, affecting about 25% of adult patients. Further prospective studies are needed to better characterize its clinical impact and the benefits of detecting and managing LD in patients with asthma.