Rationale: Several studies published in the second half of the 1990s have shown a therapeutic early effect of inhaled corticosteroids in acute asthma. However, systemic corticosteroids are considered the standard of care.
Objectives: To compare the effect of repeated doses of inhaled fluticasone with the standard treatment of systemic corticosteroids in adult patients with severe acute asthma.
Methods: One hundred six patients (mean age, 33.5 +/- 8.8 years) were randomly assigned to receive fluticasone (3,000 microg/hour) administered through a metered-dose inhaler and spacer at 10-minute intervals for 3 hours, or 500 mg of intravenous hydrocortisone. In addition, all patients received inhaled albuterol and ipratropium bromide.
Main results: Subjects treated with fluticasone showed 30.5 and 46.4% greater improvements in PEF and FEV1, respectively, compared with the hydrocortisone group. The fluticasone group had better PEF and FEV1 at 120, 150, and 180 minutes (p < 0.05). Also, the fluticasone group showed higher rates of patients who obtained the discharge threshold at 90, 120, and 150 minutes. This therapeutic benefit was particularly evident in those patients with the most severe obstruction. Subjects with a baseline FEV1 of less than 1 L treated with fluticasone showed a significant increase in pulmonary function (p = 0.001) and a significant decrease in hospitalization rate (p = 0.05).
Conclusions: The use of repeated doses of inhaled fluticasone was more effective than intravenous hydrocortisone and was associated with an early improvement. This therapeutic benefit was particularly evident in those patients with the most severe obstruction.