Recent literature on paediatric status asthmaticus (PSA) confirms an increasing percentage of admissions to paediatric intensive care units. PSA is a medical emergency that can be fatal and needs careful and prompt intervention. The severity of PSA is mainly determined by clinical judgement of signs and symptoms. Peak flow measurements and serial lung function measurements are not reliable in PSA. Validated clinically useful instruments are lacking. The three main factors that are involved in the pathophysiology of PSA, bronchoconstriction, mucus plugging and airway inflammation need to be addressed to optimise treatment. Initial therapies include supplementation of oxygen, repetitive administration of rapid acting β2-agonists, inhaled anticholinergics in combination with systemic glucocorticosteroids and intravenous magnesium sulphate. Additional treatment modalities may include methylxanthines, DNase, ketamine, sodium bicarbonate, heliox, epinephrine, non-invasive respiratory support, mechanical ventilation and inhalational anaesthetics.
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