Prehospital management of pediatric asthma patients in a large emergency medical services system

Sriram Ramgopal, Angelica Mazzarini, Christian Martin-Gill, Sylvia Owusu-Ansah*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Asthma is a common pediatric diagnosis for emergency medical services (EMS) transports, however there is a paucity of data on prehospital asthma management. The purpose of this study was to describe prehospital management of pediatric patients with suspected asthma exacerbation. Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of electronic medical records from 24 ground EMS agencies in Southwestern Pennsylvania between 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2017. We identified patients 2 to 17 years with documented wheezing, excluding those with suspected anaphylaxis. Patients with documented respiratory distress were classified as severe asthma. We report descriptive statistics of demographics, vital signs, and management including administration of medications and performance of procedures. Results: Of 19 246 pediatric transports, 1078 (5.6%) patients had wheezing. Of these, 532 (49%) met criteria for severe asthma. Patients with severe asthma were more likely to be adolescents compared to those with nonsevere asthma (49.6% vs 6%; P <.001). While rates of intravenous methylprednisolone administration were higher in patients with severe asthma (68/532, 12.8%) compared to those with nonsevere asthma (13/546, 2.4%; P <.001), overall use of steroids was low (7.5%). Other therapies provided included albuterol (n = 699, 64.8%), ipratropium bromide (n = 271, 25.1%), and oxygen (n = 280, 26.0%). One hundred eighty patients (16.7%) received a peripheral IV line. Two patients (0.4%) were given continuous positive airway pressure. Conclusion: Approximately 6% of pediatric EMS transports are for asthma. Steroid usage was low in even those with severe asthma, representing an area of process improvement. These data provide a baseline to future research to identify interventions that may improve outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-89
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric Pulmonology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • EMS
  • asthma
  • emergency medical services
  • prehospital
  • steroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Prehospital management of pediatric asthma patients in a large emergency medical services system'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this