Objective: To determine if there is a difference in early relapse rates and adrenal suppression between patients receiving an 8-day course of 40 mg/day prednisolone and those receiving an 8-day tapering course of prednisolone.
Methods: This was a prospective, randomized, open clinical trial conducted in a tertiary care center. All asthmatic patients with exacerbation who were judged well enough for discharge home from the emergency department were eligible for participation. Patients with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, pneumothorax, or other pulmonary process and asthmatics already using inhaled or oral steroids within 2 weeks of admission to the emergency department were excluded. Patients on discharge were administered either on 8-day course of 40 mg/day prednisolone or an 8-day tapering course of prednisolone (tapering from 40 mg to 0 mg). Patients were asked to return on Day 12 for cosyntropin stimulated test and pulmonary function testing and on Day 21 for pulmonary function testing only.
Results: A group of 13 patients treated with non-tapering course (40 mg/day) of prednisolone for 8 days were compared to a group of 13 patients treated with a tapering course (40 mg taper by 5 mg/day) for 8 days. There were no differences in the FEV1 percent predicted (Days 12 and 21), the incidence of relapse, or the incidence of adrenal suppression between the 2 groups.
Conclusion: In this small study, we found no significant difference in relapse rate or adrenal suppression between asthmatics receiving an 8-day tapering dose of prednisolone and those receiving 40 mg/day prednisolone upon discharge from the emergency department.