Objective: To evaluate whether a single dose of intramuscularly administered dexamethasone acetate (IM Dex) was as safe and effective as a 5-day course of oral prednisone (PO Pred) in the treatment of young children with mild-moderate exacerbations of asthma.
Study design: A prospective, randomized, investigator-blinded study was done in a tertiary care medical center in children (6 months to 7 years of age) who required corticosteroids to treat mild-moderate asthma exacerbations as outpatients. Patients were randomized to receive either a single dose of IM Dex ( approximately 1.7 mg/kg) or PO Pred ( approximately 2 mg/kg/d for 5 days). Clinical asthma score, behavioral changes, albuterol use, and tolerance of the medication were recorded in a home diary for 7 days. Cortisol/creatinine ratios on first morning void urine samples were obtained on day 14. The primary outcome measures were changes in clinical asthma score through day 5 and tolerance of the medication.
Results: Fifteen patients in the IM Dex group (mean age 37 months) and 17 in the PO Pred group (mean age 36 months) completed the study. Clinical asthma score improved significantly in both groups during the first 5 days of therapy, and no significant difference was seen in the rate of improvement between the 2 groups. Three children refused more than 75% of their prednisone doses, and another 4 missed 30% to 50% of the doses despite their parents' best efforts. The intramuscular injection caused no complications, and approximately 70% of parents in both groups stated that they would choose IM Dex to treat their child's next asthma exacerbation.
Conclusion: In this group of children a single intramuscular injection of dexamethasone acetate was as effective as a 5-day course of PO Pred for the management of mild-moderate outpatient asthma exacerbations.