Treatment for acute asthma in the Emergency Department: practical aspects

D L Urso
European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 2010, 14 (3): 209-14
This article describes the management of acute asthma exacerbation in the Emergency Department (ED). An asthma exacerbation can be defined as clinical worsening of disease or an asymptomatic decrease in peak flows. Acute exacerbations of asthma may represent reactions to airway irritants or failures of chronic treatment. Hospitalizations and ED visits account for a large proportion of the health-care cost burden of asthma. The assessment of an asthma exacerbation constitutes a process with two different dimensions: to determine the severity of attack, and to evaluate the response to treatment. The principal goals of managing an asthma acute exacerbation may be summarized as maintenance of adequate arterial oxygen saturation with supplemental oxygen, relief of airflow obstruction with repetitive administration of short acting beta-2 agonists (SABA), and treatment of airway inflammation with systemic corticosteroids (CS) to prevent future relapses. SABA, oxygen, and CS form the basis of management of acute asthma exacerbation but a role is emerging for anthicolinergics.

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