Introduction: This report describes the case mix, outcome and activity (duration of intensive care unit [ICU] and hospital stay, inter-hospital transfer, and readmissions to the ICU) for admissions to ICUs for acute severe asthma, and investigates the effect of case mix factors on outcome.
Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of data from a high-quality clinical database (the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre [ICNARC] Case Mix Programme Database) of 129,647 admissions to 128 adult, general critical care units across England, Wales and Northern Ireland over the period 1995-2001.
Results: Asthma accounted for 2152 (1.7%) admissions, and in 57% mechanical ventilation was employed during the first 24 hours in the ICU. A total of 147 (7.1%) patients died in intensive care and 199 (9.8%) died before discharge from hospital. The mean age was 43.6 years, and the ratio of women to men was 2:1. Median length of stay was 1.5 days in the ICU and 8 days in hospital. Older age, female sex, having received cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) within 24 hours before admission, having suffered a neurological insult during the first 24 hours in the ICU, higher heart rate, and hypercapnia were associated with greater risk for in-hospital death after adjusting for Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score. CPR before admission, neurological insult, hypoxaemia and hypercapnia were associated with receipt of mechanical ventilation after adjusting for Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score.
Conclusion: ICU admission for asthma is relatively uncommon but remains associated with appreciable in-hospital mortality. The greatest determinant of poor hospital survival in asthma patients was receipt of CPR within 24 hours before admission to ICU. Clinical management of these patients should be directed at preventing cardiac arrest before admission.