Objective: To test the ability of an assessment-driven algorithm for treatment of pediatric status asthmaticus to reduce length and cost of hospitalization.
Design: Nonrandomized, prospective, controlled trial.
Setting: Tertiary care children's hospital.
Patients: Children aged 1 to 18 years hospitalized for status asthmaticus; 104 were treated using the asthma care algorithm (intervention) and 97 using unstructured standard treatment (control).
Intervention: Patients were treated using either an assessment-based algorithm or standard care practices. The algorithm group was treated with standard medications (aerosolized albuterol, systemic corticosteroids, epinephrine, ipratropium) administered at a frequency driven by the patient's clinical condition. Specific criteria were outlined for decreasing or augmenting therapy, transferring to intensive care, and discharging to home. A unique patient record containing assessments, algorithm cues, and a treatment record was used. Intervention group patients were interviewed by telephone 1 week after discharge.
Main outcome measures: Hospital length of stay, cost per hospitalization, relapse rate, protocol adherence.
Results: Average hospital stay for intervention patients was significantly shorter than for control patients (2.0 vs 2.9 days, P<.001). Although intervention patients received fewer aerosolized albuterol doses than controls, there was no difference in short-term relapse rate between groups. The intervention saved more than $700 per patient in hospital charges. Adherence to the protocol was excellent, with only 8 variances per patient stay out of more than 150 opportunities.
Conclusion: An intensive, assessment-driven algorithm for pediatric status asthmaticus significantly reduces hospital length of stay and costs without increasing morbidity.