The asthma emergency department visit: Treating a crisis in the midst of uncontrolled disease

Richard O. Lenhardt, Catherine D. Catrambone, James Walter, Michael F. McDermott, Kevin B. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Patients with asthma who require emergency department (ED) care are burdened with asthma symptoms, are at risk for hospitalization, and use expensive resources. Objective: To examine whether an ED-based surveillance system that characterized asthma symptoms and care before, during, and after an ED visit enhances our understanding of the natural history of asthma exacerbations. Methods: This cross-sectional follow-up enrolled 225 adult patients who presented to 1 of 6 Illinois EDs for asthma care. Clinical characteristics before ED presentation, care provided in the EDs, and 1-month follow-up status were assessed by self-administered questionnaire, medical record review, and telephone interview, respectively. Results: Persistent asthma symptoms were reported by 85.8% and 84.9% (P = .37) of patients before their ED visit and follow-up call, respectively. For patients with persistent symptoms before the ED visit and follow-up call, 54.4% and 73.8% (P = .02) reported using an inhaled corticosteroid, respectively. Inhaled corticosteroids were recommended for 49.4% of discharged patients with persistent symptoms. Relapse rates for return ED visits and return hospitalizations were 26.4% and 9.6%, respectively. Patients had low asthma-specific and general quality-of-life scores at follow-up. Conclusions: Patients with asthma exacerbations most often had uncontrolled asthma before the ED visit that subsequently deteriorated, temporarily improved with ED treatment, and continued as uncontrolled asthma after the ED visit. Although improvements in care were reported 1 month after the ED visit, opportunities for additional improvement were observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-243
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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