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Chapter 14: Acute severe asthma (status asthmaticus)

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Acute severe asthma, formerly known as status asthmaticus, is defined as severe asthma unresponsive to repeated courses of beta-agonist therapy such as inhaled albuterol, levalbuterol, or subcutaneous epinephrine. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate recognition and treatment. Oral or parenteral corticosteroids should be administered to all patients with acute severe asthma as early as possible because clinical benefits may not occur for a minimum of 6‐12 hours. Approximately 50% of episodes are attributable to upper respiratory infections, and other causes include medical nonadherence, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory exposure in aspirin-allergic patients, allergen exposure (especially pets) in severely atopic individuals, irritant inhalation (smoke, paint, etc.), exercise, and insufficient use of inhaled or oral corticosteroids. The patient history should be focused on acute severe asthma including current use of oral or inhaled corticosteroids, number of hospitalizations, emergency room visits, intensive-care unit admissions and intubations, the frequency of albuterol use, the presence of nighttime symptoms, exercise intolerance, current medications or illicit drug use, exposure to allergens, and other significant medical conditions. Severe airflow obstruction may be predicted by accessory muscle use, pulsus paradoxus, refusal to recline below 30°, a pulse >120 beats/min, and decreased breath sounds. Physicians' subjective assessments of airway obstruction are often inaccurate. More objective measures of airway obstruction via peak flow (or forced expiratory volume in 1 second) and pulse oximetry before oxygen administration usually are helpful. Pulse oximetry values >90% are less commonly associated with problems although CO2 retention and a low Pao2 may be missed.
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Keywords: Acute severe asthma; aspirin; atopic; corticosteroids; irritant; nonadherence; pets; pulsus paradoxus; status asthmaticus; upper respiratory infection

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 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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