Study objective: To determine the effect of adding the nebulized anticholinergic drug ipratropium bromide to standard therapy compared with standard therapy alone for acute severe asthma (peak expiratory flow rate [PEFR] < 50% of predicted) in children presenting to the emergency department.
Methods: Ninety children aged 6 to 18 years were randomly assigned to two groups in a prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled study performed in the ED of an urban children's hospital. All children received nebulized albuterol solution (.15 mg/kg) every 30 minutes, and all received oral steroids with the second dose of albuterol. Children in group 1 received ipratropium bromide (500 micrograms/dose) with the first and third dose of albuterol those in group 2 received saline placebo instead of ipratropium. Pulmonary functions (PEFR and 1-second forced expiratory volume [FEV1]) and physiologic measurements were assessed every 30 minutes up to 120 minutes. By chance, the baseline values for percent of predicted PEFR and FEV1 differed between the two groups. Therefore a multivariate model accounting for both time and baseline effects was used to compare the response between groups.
Results: On average, and adjusting for baseline measures, children in the ipratropium group had a significantly greater improvement in percent of predicted PEFR than did children in the placebo group at 60 minutes (P = .02), 90 minutes (P = .002), and 120 minutes (P < .0001). The improvement in percent predicted FEV1 was significantly greater for children in the ipratropium group only at 120 minutes (P = .013). Nine children (20%) from the ipratropium group and 14 (31.1%) from the control group were admitted (P = .33, chi 2). There were no significant adverse effects attributable to the ipratropium, and there was no relation between ipratropium use and changes in pulse, respiratory rate, blood pressure, or oxygen saturation.
Conclusion: We detected significant improvement in pulmonary function studies over 120 minutes in children with severe asthma who were given nebulized ipratropium combined with albuterol and oral steroids, compared with children who received the standard therapy. Further study is needed to determine whether early use of ipratropium decreases the need for hospitalization.