Prevalence and clinical associations of wheezes and crackles in the general population: the Tromso study

J. C. Aviles-Solis*, C. Jacome, A. Davidsen, R. Einarsen, S. Vanbelle, H. Pasterkamp, H. Melbye

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Web of Science)


Background Wheezes and crackles are well-known signs of lung diseases, but can also be heard in apparently healthy adults. However, their prevalence in a general population has been sparsely described. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of wheezes and crackles in a large general adult population and explore associations with self-reported disease, smoking status and lung function. Methods We recorded lung sounds in 4033 individuals 40 years or older and collected information on self-reported disease. Pulse oximetry and spirometry were carried out. We estimated age-standardized prevalence of wheezes and crackles and associations between wheezes and crackles and variables of interest were analyzed with univariable and multivariable logistic regressions. Results Twenty-eight percent of individuals had wheezes or crackles. The age-standardized prevalence of wheezes was 18.6% in women and 15.3% in men, and of crackles, 10.8 and 9.4%, respectively. Wheezes were mostly found during expiration and crackles during inspiration. Significant predictors of expiratory wheezes in multivariable analyses were age (10 years increase - OR 1.18, 95%CI 1.09-1.30), female gender (1.45, 1.2-1.8), self-reported asthma (1.36, 1.00-1.83), and current smoking (1.70, 1.28-2.23). The most important predictors of inspiratory crackles were age (1.76, 1.57-1.99), current smoking, (1.94, 1.40-2.69), mMRC >= 2 (1.79, 1.18-2.65), SpO(2) (0.88, 0.81-0.96), and FEV1 Z-score (0.86, 0.77-0.95). Conclusions Nearly over a quarter of adults present adventitious lung sounds on auscultation. Age was the most important predictor of adventitious sounds, particularly crackles. The adventitious sounds were also associated with self-reported disease, current smoking and measures of lung function. The presence of findings in two or more auscultation sites was associated with a higher risk of decreased lung function than solitary findings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number173
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Pulmonary Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sep 2019


  • Wheezes
  • Crackles
  • Auscultation
  • Population
  • SEX

Cite this