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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2001;(4):CD001276.

Intravenous aminophylline for acute severe asthma in children over 2 years using inhaled bronchodilators.

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  • 1Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, Scotland, NHS.



Intravenous aminophylline was the bronchodilator of choice for many years until supplanted by more effective bronchodilators in the treatment of acute paediatric asthma. Recently there has been renewed interest in this therapy for children with acute severe asthma.


To determine whether addition of intravenous aminophylline produces a beneficial effect in children with acute severe asthma receiving oxygen, maximised inhaled bronchodilators and oral/intravenous glucocorticoids.


The Cochrane Airways Group register of trials (based on MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and hand searched respiratory journals) and reference lists of relevant articles were used to identify relevant studies. The latest search was carried out in October 2000.


Only randomised-controlled trials comparing intravenous aminophylline with placebo in children treated with inhaled bronchodilators and systemic glucocorticoids for acute asthma were considered for this review.


Full text of 35 trials were anonymized for author, date and publication and two blinded independent reviewers selected eligible studies for inclusion. Disagreement was resolved through consensus. Seven trials met the inclusion criteria. Attempts were made to contact authors to verify accuracy. Results were reported as weighted mean differences (WMD) or relative risk (RR) with 95% confidential intervals (CI).


Patients in these trials were predominantly school-aged children hospitalised for acute severe asthma with a baseline FEV1 at 35-40% of predicted and/or a baseline Pulmonary Index of 6-7. Aminophylline significantly improved percentage predicted FEV1 by 6 - 8 hours (WMD 8.4%; 95% CI: 0.82, 15.92%). The effect was maintained for 24 hours. Improvements were also seen in symptom scores at 6-8 hours (WMD= -0.71; 95% CI: -0.82,-0.60). There was no reduction in hospital stay or in number of nebulisers required. Vomiting was more likely with aminophylline therapy (Relative Risk = 3.69; 95% CI: 2.15, 6.33).


Addition of intravenous aminophylline should be considered early in the treatment of children hospitalised with acute severe asthma with sub optimal response to the initial inhaled bronchodilator therapy. Although the improvement is sustained for 24 hours, there is no apparent reduction in length of hospital stay or number of inhaled beta2-agonists nebulisations. Treatment with aminophylline is associated with an increased risk of vomiting.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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