Acute asthma often requires expensive emergency department visits and hospitalizations, especially among economically disadvantaged inner-city adults. However, few studies have examined approaches for improving acute asthma care in this population.
We conducted a cohort study involving patients who were discharged from a public hospital emergency department following acute asthma care between March 31, 1997, and August 5, 1999, to identify processes of care effective for improving peak expiratory flow rate at a 2- to 3-week follow-up. Adult patients who met the predetermined criteria for asthma, who underwent a baseline peak expiratory flow rate reading, and who did not have concurrent acute sinusitis or pneumonia were eligible (N = 448). Of the 365 patients enrolled in the study, 309 (84.7%) completed it. We used a multiple linear regression analysis adjusted for patient risk to assess the association between acute asthma care processes derived from the National Asthma Education Prevention Program guidelines (inhaled β2-agonists, inhaled corticosteroids, systemic corticosteroids, asthma care follow-up, and patient asthma education) and percentage peak expiratory flow rate change at follow-up.
Systemic corticosteroids had a significant effect for increasing percentage peak expiratory flow rate change at the 2- to 3-week follow-up for all asthma exacerbation severity levels (β = 26.1; 95% confidence interval, 1.8-50.5; P = .04) and severity levels specified by the National Asthma Education Prevention Program guidelines (β = 31.6; 95% confidence interval, 8.1-55.1; P = .01).
Outpatient systemic corticosteroids were effective for improving lung function 2 to 3 weeks after acute asthma care, and their use should reduce asthma-related morbidity, especially among economically disadvantaged inner-city adults.