The short-term course of pediatric patients after emergency department (ED) treatment for acute asthma has not been comprehensively documented; most previous studies have limited outcomes to ED length-of-stay, hospital admission, and relapse.


To describe symptom persistence, medication use, functional disability, follow-up, and relapse in these children in the 2 weeks after acute treatment and ED discharge.


Randomly selected, prospective cohort from September 1996 to August 1997; follow-up telephone interviews at 1 and 2 weeks.


A large, inner-city children's hospital emergency department.


Random sample of pediatric asthma visits requiring ED treatment but not admission; 457 were eligible, 388 with complete follow-up (85%); final sample included 367 patients after multiple visits deleted.

Main Outcome Measures.

Details of symptom persistence, functional disability, medication use, relapse, and routine follow-up.


Results included significant morbidity: 23% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 19, 27) with cough and 12% (95% CI: 9, 15) with wheeze persistent at 2 weeks; 20% (95% CI: 16, 24) with decreased activity at 1 week; 45% (95% CI: 39, 51) missed >2 and 24% (95% CI: 19, 29) ≥5 days of school or day care; 17% (95% CI: 13, 21) spent ≥3 days in bed; 54% (95% CI: 47, 60) of caretakers missed at least 1 and 18% (95% CI: 13, 24) missed >2 days of school or work; and 32% (95% CI: 28, 38) of patients were still using greater than baseline medication at 2 weeks. Reported relapse rates were averaged at 13% (95% CI: 10, 17) with 3% (95% CI: 1, 5) admitted. Routine office follow-up was poor: 29% (95% CI: 25, 34) had had a visit; 48% (95% CI: 43, 54) reported no visit/none planned.


A considerable proportion of inner-city pediatric patients discharged from the hospital from the ED after standard treatment for acute asthma had poor short-term outcomes. Conventional markers of successful ED treatment, such as avoiding hospital admission or relapse, do not adequately describe outcomes of acute care. The patient-oriented measures described here may provide more useful indicators of outcome in the evaluation of acute asthma care.

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