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Difficult asthma: Assessment and management, Part 2

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Patients with severe asthma have considerable morbidity related to their asthma and are at risk for serious, life-threatening exacerbations. Their management requires an intensive and comprehensive approach, including attention to reducing exposure to environmental inciters of airway inflammation and triggers of symptoms, patient education (including an asthma action plan), and opportunity for close patient-provider communication. Approved medical options include the lipoxygenase inhibitor, zileuton; the anti-immunoglobulin E monoclonal antibody, omalizumab; and bronchial thermoplasty. Nonapproved interventions of potential benefit are ultrahigh-dose inhaled corticosteroids, anticholinergic bronchodilators (tiotropium), macrolide antibiotics, and vitamin D supplementation for the vitamin D-deficient patient. Potentially toxic, “steroid-sparing” therapies such as methotrexate, cyclosporine, and etanercept are best reserved for patients participating in clinical trials. Recognition of specific subtypes of patients with therapy-resistant asthma permits more targeted treatment approaches, such as for aspirin-sensitive asthma, persistent eosinophilic asthma, asthma complicated by allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, asthma with persistent airflow obstruction, and asthma with life-threatening (near fatal) asthmatic attacks. Novel therapies based on an improved understanding of the pathobiology of therapy-resistant asthma are greatly needed.
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Keywords: Bronchial thermoplasty; difficult asthma; eosinophilic asthma; inhaled corticosteroids; macrolides; omalizumab; severe asthma; tiotropium; vitamin D; zileuton

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Partners Asthma Center and the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Division at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Pulmonary and Critical Care Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

    The goal of the Proceedings is to publish articles with a predominantly clinical focus which directly impact quality of care for patients with allergic disease and asthma and by having the potential to directly impact the quality of patient care. AAP welcomes the submission of original works including peer-reviewed original research and clinical trial results. Additionally, as the official journal of the Eastern Allergy Conference (EAC), AAP will publish content from EAC poster sessions as well as review articles derived from EAC lectures.

    Featured topics include asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, food allergies, allergic skin diseases, diagnostic techniques, allergens, and treatment modalities. Published material includes peer-reviewed original research, clinical trials and review articles.

    Articles marked "F" offer free full text for personal noncommercial use only.

    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
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