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Monday 01 July 2002

Management of acute, severe asthma in children.

By: Streetman DD, Bhatt-Mehta V, Johnson CE.

Ann Pharmacother 2002 Jul-Aug;36(7-8):1249-60

OBJECTIVE: To briefly present the current options available for the treatment of acute, severe asthma in children, with a special focus on emergency department and inpatient treatment, and to describe newer therapies that may aid treatment in the future. DATA SOURCES AND STUDY SELECTION: A MEDLINE search (1966-May 2001) of the English-language literature pertaining to drug therapy of acute asthma was performed. Key word searches included acute asthma, albuterol, ipratropium, corticosteroids, magnesium, and theophylline. Additional articles from these sources and published national guidelines were identified. Relevant studies pertaining to current therapy of acute asthma in pediatric patients were selected; if there were minimal pediatric data, adult data were included. DATA SYNTHESIS: Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory disorder of the airways. Acute exacerbations can occur and are challenging to manage. Albuterol, ipratropium, and systemic corticosteroids have been shown to be effective in acute asthma exacerbations. Because some patients do not respond to maximal therapy, older therapies such as magnesium and theophylline are being reevaluated. Theophylline may have some therapeutic effect, but given its toxicity profile, it is unclear whether it offers any advantage over maximal beta(2)-agonist therapy. There are only minimal published data evaluating the use of magnesium in pediatrics, and most are small trials or case reports. Newer therapies such as ventilation strategies with heliox and intravenous leukotriene modifiers currently being evaluated may or may not prove to be beneficial in the future. CONCLUSIONS: beta(2)-agonists, ipratropium, and corticosteroids remain the most useful therapeutic agents for acute asthma exacerbations in pediatric patients. However, these agents are not ideal in all patients and, given the existing questions regarding safety and/or efficacy of available alternatives, more effective options are needed.

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