Sudden death from asthma in 108 children and young adults

J Asthma. 1996;33(3):179-88. doi: 10.3109/02770909609054550.


To identify factors that may contribute to asthma mortality, 108 acute asthma deaths were reviewed. Information was obtained from medical records, next-of-kin, and autopsy records. The fatal asthmatic was characterized by early-onset asthma, severe disease requiring systemic corticosteroids, and prior hospitalization. Risk factors associated with gender, season, employment, and region were also identified. The fatal attack was characterized by an identifiable trigger, delay in seeking medical attention, and rapid deterioration in clinical status. Death due to asthma was confirmed in 95% of autopsied cases. Adrenal cortical abnormalities were recorded for 18.7% of cases. We conclude that, in addition to established risk factors, complications associated with the use of systemic steroids may contribute to the risk for sudden death in this age group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Cortex / pathology
  • Adult
  • Alberta / epidemiology
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / mortality*
  • Autopsy
  • Child
  • Death, Sudden / epidemiology
  • Death, Sudden / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Precipitating Factors
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents