Characteristics of near-fatal asthma in childhood

Pediatr Pulmonol. 1995 Jul;20(1):1-8. doi: 10.1002/ppul.1950200102.


As part of the South Australian asthma mortality survey, we examined 30 cases of near-fatal asthma attacks in children under 15 years of age who were seen over a 3-year period from May 1988 to June 1991. Subjects presented with asthma and either respiratory arrest, PaCO2 above 50 mm Hg, and/or an altered state of consciousness or inability to speak on presentation at a metropolitan Adelaide teaching hospital. A standardized interview and questionnaire was completed with subjects/parents and medical practitioners. Data were reviewed by the assessment panel which made collective judgments based on predetermined criteria. Seventeen patients (57%) were male, 20% were less than 7 years of age, and the majority (53%) were aged between 12 and 15 years. The majority (83%) had severe asthma and only one case (3.3%) had mild asthma. Half of the subjects were waking every night due to asthma and 79% had significant exercise limitation. A quarter of the subjects had a previous ICU admission and 70% had a hospital admission in the last 12 months. Primary care was carried out by a general practitioner in 57% of cases, and 70% of subjects had a crisis plan. Only 46% of those older than 7 years of age had ever used a peak-flow meter. Eighty percent of subjects or their families had high denial scores, and in 73% of cases psychosocial factors were considered to be significant. Eighty percent of cases experienced acute progressive respiratory distress, and 63% of cases delayed seeking medical care.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / psychology
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Child
  • Denial, Psychological
  • Emergencies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Sick Role
  • South Australia / epidemiology
  • Time Factors