The assessment and management of adults with status asthmaticus. | American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine

Despite advancing knowledge of the pathophysiology and treatment of asthma, asthma morbidity and mortality are on the rise. To help avert this trend, clinicians and patients must focus their attention on the early identification and treatment of asthma exacerbations. As in the words of Dr. Thomas Petty: ” … the best treatment of status asthmaticus is to treat it three days before it occurs.” (7) Still, there will be asthmatics with life-threatening attacks that require careful assessment and aggressive management. Inhaled beta-agonists, systemic corticosteroids, and oxygen remain the drugs of choice in SA. Anticholinergics play a lesser role in the treatment of acute asthma, and debate continues regarding the efficacy of theophylline in this setting. Available data do not support the routine use of magnesium sulfate or antibiotics in patients with SA. Patients failing drug therapy should be considered early for intubation and mechanical ventilation. A strategy of mechanical ventilation that prolongs TE by limiting VE and decreasing inspiratory time, and that tolerates hypercapnia, avoids excessive lung hyperinflation and barotrauma and should improve the outcome of these most critically ill asthmatics. Intubated and mechanically ventilated patients should be aggressively sedated. Paralytic agents should be used only if adequate control of the cardiopulmonary status cannot be achieved by sedation alone. Minimizing the use of paralytic agents may decrease risk of myopathy and other adverse consequences of muscle paralysis. Finally, after successful treatment of a life-threatening episode of asthma, the treatment team should address prevention of future episodes of SA prior to discharge.

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