To determine the current use of β2−agonists, in particular salbutamol, for the management of acute asthma in children in emergency departments throughout Australia and New Zealand.
A cross-sectional survey using a questionnaire that sought to determine the current use of salbutamol and any adverse drug reactions in paediatric emergency departments.
Out of 37 hospitals eligible as paediatric emergency departments, 33 (89.1%) responded to the survey, 54.5% having guidelines for the management of acute asthma. Of the paediatric emergency departments surveyed, 45.5% used metered-dose inhaler spacer combination in the treatment of mild to moderate asthma. All paediatric emergency departments used nebulized salbutamol for acute severe asthma. In addition, 85% of paediatric emergency departments used continuous-infusion intravenous salbutamol in unresponsive patients, 63.6% administering a single-dose intravenous salbutamol bolus before commencing the infusion. District paediatric emergency departments were more likely to treat with continuous-infusion intravenous salbutamol outside of the intensive care unit. Clinical unresponsiveness to inhaled salbutamol and clinical improvement were the reported criteria in all paediatric emergency departments for the use and cessation of intravenous salbutamol. Adverse drug reactions were common: tremor (90%), hypokalaemia (45.5%) and supraventricular tachycardia (21%), particularly if continuous-infusion intravenous salbutamol administered. Eight deaths from asthma were reported, none being related to adverse drug reactions.
We report a wide variation of salbutamol use in paediatric emergency departments and a high prevalence of type A adverse drug reactions when continuous-infusion intravenous salbutamol therapy was administered. More evidence is needed on the clinical significance of the adverse effects reported in this study and optimal doses for the safe use of continuous-infusion intravenous salbutamol therapy in paediatric emergency departments.