Emergency department visits for acute asthma by adults who ran out of their inhaled medications
Emergency Service, Hospital
This study was designed to determine the percentage of asthma-related emergency department (ED) visits made by patients who recently ran out of their inhaled short-acting beta-agonists or inhaled corticosteroids and to characterize this understudied patient population. A secondary analysis was performed of data from four ED-based multicenter studies of acute asthma during 1996-1998 (n = 64 EDs). In each study, consecutive adult patients, aged 18-54 years, with acute asthma underwent a structured interview that assessed running out of inhaled medications. The analytic cohort comprised 1095 adults. Overall, 324 patients (30%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 27-32%) ran out of either of their inhaled beta-agonists or inhaled corticosteroids during the week before their index ED visit; 311 (28%; 95% CI, 26-31%) ran out of inhaled beta-agonists per se. Among a subset of 518 patients on inhaled corticosteroids, 55 patients (11%; 95% CI, 8-14%) ran out of inhaled corticosteroids. In the multivariable model, predictors of running out of an asthma medication were male sex, non-Hispanic black race, Hispanic ethnicity, no insurance, lower household income, and use of EDs as the preferred source of asthma prescriptions (all p < 0.05). Among patients who ran out of medications, 49% (95% CI, 43-55%) ran out of inhaled beta-agonists and 72% (95% CI, 58-84%) ran out of inhaled corticosteroids, before onset of their acute asthma symptoms. In 1095 adult ED patients with acute asthma, we found that 30% ran out of their inhaled asthma medications before the ED visit. Asthma patients who ran out of medications had sociodemographic characteristics that may help with identification of preventable ED visits. Multifaceted strategies needed to ensure optimal use of inhaled medications are warranted.