Multicenter Study of Albuterol Use Among Infants Hospitalized with Bronchiolitis

West J Emerg Med. 2018 May;19(3):475-483. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2018.3.35837. Epub 2018 Apr 5.


Introduction: Although bronchiolitis is a common reason for infant hospitalization, significant heterogeneity persists in its management. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that inhaled albuterol not be used in routine care of children with bronchiolitis. Our objective was to identify factors associated with pre-admission (e.g., emergency department or primary care) use of albuterol among infants hospitalized for bronchiolitis.

Methods: We analyzed data from a 17-center observational study of 1,016 infants (age <1 year) hospitalized with bronchiolitis between 2011-2014. Pre-admission albuterol use was ascertained by chart review, and data were available for 1,008 (99%) infants. We used multivariable logistic regression to identify infant characteristics independently associated with pre-admission albuterol use.

Results: Half of the infants (n=508) received at least one albuterol treatment before admission. Across the 17 hospitals, pre-admission albuterol use ranged from 23-84%. In adjusted analysis, independent predictors of albuterol use were the following: age ≥2 months (age 2.0-5.9 months [odds ratio (OR) 2.09, 95% confidence interval (CI) {1.45-3.01}] and age 6.0-11.9 months [OR 2.89, 95% CI {1.99-4.19}]); prior use of a bronchodilator (OR 1.89, 95% CI [1.24-2.90]); and presence of wheezing documented in pre-admission chart (OR 3.94, 95% CI [2.61-5.93]). By contrast, albuterol use was less likely among those with ≥7 days since the start of breathing problem (OR 0.66, 95% CI [0.44-1.00]) and parent-reported fever (OR 0.75, 95% CI [0.58-0.96]).

Conclusion: Variation in pre-admission albuterol use suggests that local practice had a strong influence on use, but that patient characteristics also influenced the decision. While we agree with current guidelines in recommending against albuterol for all infants with bronchiolitis, our understanding of possible subgroups of responders may improve through investigation of infants with the identified characteristics.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Albuterol / therapeutic use*
  • Bronchiolitis / drug therapy*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Albuterol