Pediatricians Support Initiation of Asthma Controller Medications in the Emergency Department: A National Survey

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2015 Aug;31(8):545-50. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000000389.


Objectives: Although National Asthma Guidelines recommend that emergency department (ED) physicians consider initiating controller medications, research suggests that this practice occurs infrequently. The goal of this study was to assess primary care pediatricians' (PCP) beliefs and attitudes regarding ED initiation of controller medications for children with persistent asthma symptoms.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional mail survey of a randomly selected national sample of pediatricians from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The survey posed questions regarding beliefs, barriers, and support for national guideline recommendations.

Results: Eight hundred eighty-six (44.3%) of 2000 subjects responded. Five hundred seventy-two (64.5%) respondents met eligibility for analysis. When presented with a vignette of a child with persistent asthma, 476 (83%) of PCPs felt it was appropriate for the ED physician to initiate controller medications. Most (80%) PCPs supported the national guideline recommendation, although a similar proportion reported they have never or rarely experienced this practice before. Only 11% opposed the practice in all circumstances. Beliefs supporting this practice included the following: opportunity to capture patients lost to follow-up (85%), reinforcement of daily use of controller medications (83%), and controller medication may shorten an acute exacerbation (53%). Barriers included lack of time for education in ED (65%), reinforcement of ED use for primary care (64%), lack of PCP communication (62%), and inability to assess severity appropriately (41%). Most (90%) PCPs expect communication from the ED provider.

Conclusions: A majority of pediatricians support the practice of ED physicians initiating controller medication during an acute visit for asthma. Communication with the PCP, appropriate screening of severity, and education about controller medications were important considerations expressed by these providers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Utilization
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pediatrics
  • Physicians, Primary Care / psychology*
  • Primary Health Care
  • United States


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents