Background: Patients who visit the emergency department (ED) because of asthma frequently have a relapse. While the use of inhaled corticosteroids has been demonstrated to improve asthma symptoms and lung function, it is not clear whether their use after discharge from the ED reduces asthma relapse rates.
Objective: To determine whether inhaled corticosteroid therapy reduces ED asthma relapse rates.
Methods: We analyzed ED visit and medication data on patients 5 to 60 years of age who were enrolled in a government-sponsored drug plan and who visited an ED because of asthma between April 1, 1997, and March 31, 1999, in Alberta, Canada (N = 1293). Using a Cox proportional hazards model, we determined the relative risk (RR) of relapse ED visits among users and nonusers of inhaled corticosteroids after discharge from the ED. We also compared the RR of relapse ED visits across different dose categories.
Results: Users of inhaled corticosteroids after ED discharge had 45% fewer relapse ED visits than did nonusers (adjusted RR, 0.55; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.44-0.69). Low-, medium-, and high-dose therapies were associated with similar reductions in the risk of relapse ED visits: low-dose therapy (RR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.39-0.68), medium-dose therapy (RR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.34-0.76), and high-dose therapy (RR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.47-0.94).
Conclusions: Inhaled corticosteroid therapy after ED discharge is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of subsequent ED visits. Low-dose therapy appears to be as effective as high-dose therapy. However, further studies are needed to determine the optimal dosing regimen for inhaled corticosteroid therapy for asthma.