Fatal and near-fatal asthma in children: the critical care perspective

J Pediatr. 2012 Aug;161(2):214-21.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.02.041. Epub 2012 Apr 10.


Objective: To characterize the clinical course, therapies, and outcomes of children with fatal and near-fatal asthma admitted to pediatric intensive care units (PICUs).

Study design: This was a retrospective chart abstraction across the 8 tertiary care PICUs of the Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network (CPCCRN). Inclusion criteria were children (aged 1-18 years) admitted between 2005 and 2009 (inclusive) for asthma who received ventilation (near-fatal) or died (fatal). Data collected included medications, ventilator strategies, concomitant therapies, demographic information, and risk variables.

Results: Of the 261 eligible children, 33 (13%) had no previous history of asthma, 218 (84%) survived with no known complications, and 32 (12%) had complications. Eleven (4%) died, 10 of whom had experienced cardiac arrest before admission. Patients intubated outside the PICU had a shorter duration of ventilation (median, 25 hours vs 84 hours; P < .001). African-Americans were disproportionately represented among the intubated children and had a shorter duration of intubation. Barotrauma occurred in 15 children (6%) before admission. Pharmacologic therapy was highly variable, with similar outcomes.

Conclusion: Of the children ventilated in the CPCCRN PICUs, 96% survived to hospital discharge. Most of the children who died experienced cardiac arrest before admission. Intubation outside the PICU was correlated with shorter duration of ventilation. Complications of barotrauma and neuromyopathy were uncommon. Practice patterns varied widely among the CPCCRN sites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anesthesia, Inhalation
  • Asthma / mortality*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Blood Gas Analysis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Care
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal
  • Male
  • Patient Readmission
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena
  • Status Asthmaticus / mortality
  • Status Asthmaticus / physiopathology
  • Status Asthmaticus / therapy
  • Survival Rate