Early administration of systemic corticosteroids reduces hospital admission rates for children with moderate and severe asthma exacerbation

Ann Emerg Med. 2012 Jul;60(1):84-91.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2011.12.027. Epub 2012 Mar 10.


Study objective: The variable effectiveness of clinical asthma pathways to reduce hospital admissions may be explained in part by the timing of systemic corticosteroid administration. We examine the effect of early (within 60 minutes [SD 15 minutes] of triage) versus delayed (>75 minutes) administration of systemic corticosteroids on health outcomes.

Methods: We conducted a prospective observational cohort of children aged 2 to 17 years presenting to the emergency department with moderate or severe asthma, defined as a Pediatric Respiratory Assessment Measure (PRAM) score of 5 to 12. The outcomes were hospital admission, relapse, and length of active treatment; they were analyzed with multivariate logistic and linear regressions adjusted for covariates and potential confounders.

Results: Among the 406 eligible children, 88% had moderate asthma; 22%, severe asthma. The median age was 4 years (interquartile range 3 to 8 years); 64% were male patients. Fifty percent of patients received systemic corticosteroids early; in 33%, it was delayed; 17% of children failed to receive any. Overall, 36% of patients were admitted to the hospital. Compared with delayed administration, early administration reduced the odds of admission by 0.4 (95% confidence interval 0.2 to 0.7) and the length of active treatment by 0.7 hours (95% confidence interval -1.3 to -0.8 hours), with no significant effect on relapse. Delayed administration was positively associated with triage priority and negatively with PRAM score.

Conclusion: In this study of children with moderate or severe asthma, administration of systemic corticosteroids within 75 minutes of triage decreased hospital admission rate and length of active treatment, suggesting that early administration of systemic corticosteroids may allow for optimal effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage*
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Albuterol / administration & dosage
  • Albuterol / therapeutic use
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Pathways*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prednisolone / administration & dosage*
  • Prednisolone / therapeutic use
  • Prednisone / administration & dosage*
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Status Asthmaticus / drug therapy*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Triage


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Prednisolone
  • Albuterol
  • Prednisone