Objective: Implementation of clinical guidelines is frequently delayed well beyond their dissemination and the publication of clinical evidence. The recently published Australian guidelines for the management of acute viral bronchiolitis (AVB) have been evaluated by assessing the current practice of Australian paediatricians.
Methods: Questionnaire survey of all Australian paediatricians and a review of the literature.
Results: Of a total of 891 questionnaires, 555 (62%) were returned. Of the respondents, 373 (67%) treated children with AVB and, of these, 232 (67%) treated 10-50 children per year. A wide variation in management practice for both outpatient and inpatient treatment of AVB was identified. Up to 70% of paediatricians who treated AVB indicated using pharmaceutical agents in their outpatient management (88% in inpatient management), most using these agents 'sometimes' or in high-risk children. Paediatric respiratory physicians tended to use bronchodilators less frequently than general paediatricians. Compared with many countries in Europe, few Australian paediatricians routinely use supplementary drugs in the inpatient managenment of AVB; in particular, bronchodilators (61 vs 7%) and corticosteroids (11 vs 1%) are used far less often. A review of the literature demonstrated that pharmaceutical agents do not influence the course of AVB.
Conclusions: Despite a lack of evidence for their efficacy and the recommendation of the Australian guidelines, pharmaceutical agents are frequently used in the management of AVB by paediatricians in Australia, although far less than reported in a recently published European survey. Guidelines alone are not sufficient to implement change and there is a need for more specific strategies to ensure that children receive appropriate management for this common condition.