Analytic review: management of life-threatening asthma in adults

Praveen Mannam, Mark D Siegel
Journal of Intensive Care Medicine 2010, 25 (1): 3-15
Asthma remains a troubling health problem despite the availability of effective treatment. A small but significant number of asthmatics experience life-threatening attacks culminating in intensive care unit admission. Standard treatment includes high dose systemic corticosteroids and inhaled bronchodilators. Patients with especially severe attacks may develop respiratory failure and need endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation. Severe airway obstruction may lead to dynamic hyperinflation and the possibility of hemodynamic collapse and barotrauma. Fortunately, most intubated asthmatics survive if physicians adhere to key management principles intended to avoid or minimize hyperinflation. The purpose of this review is to discuss the pathogenesis of life-threatening asthma and to provide practical guidance to promote rationale, safe, and effective management.

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