Identifying an at-risk population of children with recurrent near-fatal asthma exacerbations

J Asthma. 2010 May;47(4):460-4. doi: 10.3109/02770903.2010.481344.


Background: Children are frequently admitted to hospitals for treatment of severe asthma exacerbations. Anecdotally, a cohort of these children are thought to have multiple readmissions to the intensive care unit (ICU), yet this group of children has not been characterized. The purpose of this study was to examine the factors related to recurrent ICU admissions in children with asthma.

Methods: The authors conducted a retrospective study of all children admitted to the pediatric ICU for asthma between April 1997 and December 2007. Children with more than one ICU admission were defined as having recurrent near-fatal asthma exacerbations.

Results: During this period, 306 children with asthma were admitted to the ICU on 350 occasions; 269 children had only one ICU admission and 33 children (11%) had two or more ICU admissions. To predict who might require readmission, the authors compared the first hospitalization of all children. When compared with children admitted to the ICU only once, children admitted to the ICU more than once were more likely to be overweight (odds ratio [OR] 2.3; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1, 4.9), to have public insurance (OR 3.6; 95% CI 1.5, 8.5), and less likely to be Caucasian (OR 0.34; 95% CI 0.14, 0.86). There was no difference in Nation Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) asthma classification, admission illness severity, durations of therapy, or length of stay (LOS) that might identify those who would require readmission. To determine the effect of readmission analysis on subsequent hospitalization, the authors used multiple logistic regression to identify factors associated with increased LOS in all hospitalizations of the subset of children with recurrent near-fatal asthma exacerbations. In this analysis, LOS was most closely associated with admission severity of illness (p = .002), but not with number of hospitalizations.

Conclusions: In this single hospital cohort, there were identifiable factors in children admitted to the ICU that are associated with an increased risk of developing recurrent near-fatal asthma exacerbations. Specifically, overweight children with public insurance were more likely and Caucasian children less likely to be readmitted to the ICU for asthma. These children may represent a group to which specific interventions should be targeted prospectively to prevent readmission.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / ethnology
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Medical Assistance / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index