Objective: To compare the clinical effect of nebulized budesonide with placebo in acute pediatric asthma.
Methods: A randomized, controlled, double-blind trial with parallel design was used in the ED of a tertiary care children's hospital. Children aged 6 months to 18 years with a moderate to severe exacerbation of asthma [Pulmonary Index Score (PIS) > or = 5 or < or = 11 after a salbutamol nebulization of 0.15 mg/kg] were eligible. All patients received prednisone 1 mg/kg orally and nebulized salbutamol (0.15 mg/kg) every 30 minutes for 3 doses and then every hour for 4 hours. The intervention was 2 mg (4 mL) of nebulized budesonide or 4 mL of nebulized normal saline.
Results: Baseline characteristics were comparable in the budesonide group (n = 24) and in the placebo group (n = 20). There were no significant differences in the primary outcome measure (PIS) between the 2 groups. However, the PIS at 1 hour had a tendency to be lower in the budesonide group (median = 5) as compared with the placebo group (median = 6; p = 0.07). Survival analysis of release/discharge from the ED/hospital showed a more rapid rate in the budesonide group as compared with the placebo group (p = 0.02). No adverse effects were seen.
Conclusion: Although these preliminary results suggest that nebulized budesonide may be an effective adjunct to oral prednisone in the management of moderate to severe asthma exacerbations, a larger trial will be required before the widespread use of inhaled budesonide in acute asthma can be advocated.