Objective: To estimate the proportion of children hospitalized for acute asthma exacerbation who might be cared for successfully in alternative settings such as short-stay units or in-home nursing.
Design: Descriptive study based on analysis of hospital discharge files and on retrospective medical record review of a random sample of asthma hospitalizations.
Methods: The 2028 asthma hospitalizations between 1991 and 1995 for children (aged <19 years) dwelling in Rochester, NY, were studied. Measures included the duration of frequent administration of nebulized medication (2 or more times in a 4-hour period), worst oxygen saturation levels, deterioration, and hospital length of stay. Oxygen saturation values and nebulized medication frequency were determined by hospital record review on a random sample of 443 asthma episodes. Length of stay was available for all admissions.
Results: Worst oxygen saturation following hospital admission was 95% or greater, 90% to 94%, and less than 90% for 21.3%, 51.6%, and 27.1% of episodes, respectively. Children received frequent nebulized medication treatments for a mean of 2.0 nursing shifts (8 hours per shift), although they remained hospitalized, on average, for 4.3 nursing shifts longer. Deterioration to a critical level of severity was uncommon. Among children initially admitted to the regular pediatric inpatient unit, only 0.7% subsequently deteriorated to the point that they were transferred to the critical care unit.
Conclusion: More than 70% of asthma hospitalizations in this community could be cared for in alternative settings with supplemental oxygen, nebulized medication treatments, and close nursing observation provided, in most cases, for 2 nursing shifts.