Inhaled Corticosteroids Rarely Prescribed at Emergency Department Discharge Despite Low Rates of Follow-Up Care

J Emerg Med. 2023 May;64(5):555-563. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2023.02.013. Epub 2023 Mar 21.


Background: Guidelines recommend an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) prescription on emergency department (ED) discharge after acute asthma exacerbations.

Objective: We sought to identify rates and predictors of ICS prescription at ED discharge. Secondary outcomes included ICS prescription rates in a high-risk subgroup, outpatient follow-up rates within 30 days, and variation in ICS prescriptions among attending emergency physicians.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of adult asthma ED discharges for acute asthma exacerbation across 5 urban academic hospitals. We used multivariable logistic regression to evaluate predictors of ICS prescription after adjusting for patient characteristics and hospital-level clustering.

Results: Among 3948 adult ED visits, an ICS was prescribed in 6% (n = 238) of visits. Only 14% (n = 552) completed an outpatient visit within 30 days. Among patients with 2 or more ED visits in 12 months, the ICS prescription rate was 6.7%. ICS administration in the ED (odds ratio [OR] 9.91; 95% CI 7.99-12.28) and prescribing a β-agonist on discharge (OR 2.67; 95% CI 2.08-3.44) were associated with higher odds of ICS prescription. Decreased odds of ICS prescription were associated with Hispanic ethnicity (OR 0.71; 95% CI 0.51-0.99) relative to Black race, and private (OR 0.75; 95% CI 0.62-0.91) or no insurance (OR 0.54; 95% CI 0.35-0.84) relative to Medicaid. One-third (36%, n = 66) of ED attendings prescribed 0 ICS prescriptions during the study period.

Conclusions: An ICS is infrequently prescribed on ED asthma discharge, and most patients do not have an outpatient follow-up within 30 days. Future studies should examine the extent to which ED ICS prescriptions improve outcomes for patients with barriers to accessing primary care.

Keywords: asthma; emergency department; inhaled corticosteroid; prescription.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Aftercare
  • Asthma* / drug therapy
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones