Management of respiratory failure in status asthmaticus

Janet M Shapiro
American Journal of Respiratory Medicine: Drugs, Devices, and Other Interventions 2002, 1 (6): 409-16
Status asthmaticus is a life-threatening episode of asthma that is refractory to usual therapy. Recent studies report an increase in the severity and mortality associated with asthma. In the airways, inflammatory cell infiltration and activation and cytokine generation produce airway injury and edema, bronchoconstriction and mucus plugging. The key pathophysiological consequence of severe airflow obstruction is dynamic hyperinflation. The resulting hypoxemia, tachypnea together with increased metabolic demands on the muscles of respiration may lead to respiratory muscle failure. The management of status asthmaticus involves intensive pharmacological therapy particularly with beta-adrenoceptor agonists (beta-agonists) and corticosteroids. Albuterol (salbutamol) is the most commonly used beta2-selective inhaled bronchodilator in the US. Epinephrine (adrenaline) or terbutaline, administered subcutaneously, have not been shown to provide greater bronchodilatation compared with inhaled beta-agonists. Corticosteroids such as methylprednisolone should be administered early. Aerosolized corticosteroids are not recommended for patients with status asthmaticus. Inhaled anticholinergic agents may be useful in patients refractory to inhaled beta-agonists and corticosteroids. In patients requiring mechanical ventilation, the strategy aims to avoid dynamic hyperinflation by enhancing expiratory time to allow complete exhalation. Complications of dynamic inflation are hypotension and barotrauma. Sedation with opioids, benzodiazepines or propofol is required to facilitate ventilator synchrony but neuromuscular blockade should be avoided as myopathy has been a reported complication. Overall, in the management of patients with status asthmaticus, the challenge to the pulmonary/critical care clinician is to provide optimal pharmacological and ventilatory support and avoid the adverse consequences of dynamic hyperinflation.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"