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Expert Rev Respir Med. 2014 Aug;8(4):423-41. doi: 10.1586/17476348.2014.915752. Epub 2014 Jul 4.

A review of the use of adjunctive therapies in severe acute asthma exacerbation in critically ill children.

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Department of Paediatric Medicine, KK Women's and Children's Hospital, Singapore, Singapore.


Asthma is a common and potentially life threatening childhood condition. Asthma involves not only chronic airway remodeling, but may also include frequent exacerbations resulting from bronchospasm, edema, and mucus production. In children with severe exacerbations, standard therapy with β2-agonists, anti-cholinergic agents, oxygen, and systemic steroids may fail to reverse the severe airflow obstruction and necessitate use of adjunctive therapies. These therapies include intravenous or inhaled magnesium, inhaled helium-oxygen mixtures, intravenous methylxanthines, intravenous β2-agonists, and intravenous ketamine. Rarely, these measures are not successful and following the initiation of invasive mechanical ventilation, inhaled anesthetics or extracorporeal life support may be required. In this review, we discuss the mechanisms and evidence for adjunctive therapies in the setting of severe acute asthma exacerbations in children.


children; critical asthma; extracorporeal life support; heliox; inhaled anesthetics; ketamine; magnesium; methylxanthine; pediatric; status asthmaticus; β2-agonist

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