Background: Acute asthma attacks are frequent causes of attendance at hospital Emergency Departments (EDs) and a subgroup of these patients repeatedly present for such treatment.
Aims: This study sought to characterise patients who were repeat attenders at EDs, to assist the targetting of appropriate future interventions aimed at reducing avoidable presentation.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was undertaken of patients presenting with an asthma attack to the EDs of six teaching hospitals in Adelaide, South Australia between 14 May and 30 June 1994. Patients were interviewed within six weeks of their attendance about aspects of their asthma history, severity, medications, self-management, attitudes and environment. Repeat attenders, defined as two or more visits over the course of the preceding year, were compared with those who reportedly attended on one occasion only, using logistic regression analyses.
Results: Sixty-two per cent of 272 patients aged under 15 years and 40% of 165 patients aged 15 years or more reported having attended two or more times over the course of the preceding year. Among adults, the variables independently associated with repeat attendance principally related to asthma severity. Among children, repeat attendance was associated with parental attitudinal variables relating to appraisal of their child's asthma severity, management of asthma attacks and parental worry.
Conclusions: The factors underlying repeated presentations at EDs differ between adults and children and interventions to minimise avoidable presentation will require different emphasis for these patient subgroups.