Objective: Prednisone (PRED) is recommended at discharge to reduce the relapse rate following emergency treatment for an asthmatic attack. However, PRED has systemic side effects. Inhaled anti-inflammatory medications, such as budesonide (BUD), are well tolerated. This study was designed to compare the effectiveness of PRED and BUD on relapse rate.
Design: A prospective, randomized, double-blind, double dummy, parallel group design.
Setting: Tertiary referral emergency departments.
Population studied: One hundred and eighty-five patients with acute asthma who received standard treatment with bronchodilators and systemic glucocorticosteroids in the emergency department, had a forced expiration volume in 1 s (FEV1) greater than 50% predicted and who were deemed well enough to be discharged from the emergency department.
Intervention: Patients were randomized to receive either BUD Turbuhaler 600 microg qid or PRED 40 mg in the morning for seven to 10 days. At discharge and final visit, symptoms, medication use, FEV1, peak expiratory flow (PEF) and quality of life (QoL) were assessed. Relapse rate to the emergency department during the follow-up was determined by a yes and/or no questionnaire.
Main results: The PRED (n=85) and BUD (n=90) treatment groups were comparable at baseline (emergency department discharge) for age (mean +/- SD; 27.6+/-8.5 years and 29. 2+/-8.7 years) and prebronchodilator FEV1 (1.77+/-0.79 L and 1. 75+/-0.78 L), respectively. BUD was at least as effective as PRED in preventing a relapse to the hospital; relapse rate was 10 (11.8%) during PRED treatment and nine (10.0%) for BUD treatment (95% CI PRED-BUD, -7.5% to 11.0%). Improvements in FEV1, asthma symptoms, PEF and QoL were not significantly different between treatments.
Conclusions: In patients whose acute asthma has been stabilized in the emergency department, high dose BUD may be an alternate to PRED as a follow-up treatment.