Clinical, pathologic, and toxicologic findings in asthma deaths in Cook County, Illinois.

A. M. Tatum*, Paul Allen Greenberger, D. Mileusnic, E. R. Donoghue, B. D. Lifschultz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


To identify factors contributing to asthma mortality and improve our understanding of airway pathology in fatal asthma, we studied 44 cases of fatal asthma using records of one pathologist in the Office of the Medical Examiner. Records included death certificates, autopsies, toxicology, accounts by family and friends of the terminal episode, medical history of the deceased, police and paramedic reports, and hospital charts. Additionally, we interviewed by telephone surviving family and friends. Six (17%) of 35 patients were using inhaled corticosteroids at time of death. Of the nine patients who had seen a physician within 2 weeks of death, two were using corticosteroids. Toxicology was positive in 16 (38%) of 42 cases. Of the 20 patients with sudden-onset asthma (prodrome of increasing symptoms < 1 hour before death), 9 (45%) had positive toxicology. Patients with both sudden-onset and slow-onset asthma (prodrome > 3 hours before death) had airway mucosal or submucosal eosinophilic or neutrophilic infiltrates or both, as well as airways with and without mucus plugging. These findings indicate that asthma deaths are confounded by substance abuse and lack of anti-inflammatory therapy, and there is a heterogeneity in histological findings in sudden-onset and slow-onset asthma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-291
Number of pages7
JournalAllergy and asthma proceedings : the official journal of regional and state allergy societies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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