Purpose: The prevalence of asthma in the pediatric population is approximately 9% and the incidence of acute exacerbation in this population has been increasing. The purpose of this study was to determine if there has been a change in the pre-hospital presentation and treatment of pediatric asthma.
Methods: This observational study was a retrospective consecutive case series comparing pediatric (#18 yrs) asthmatics treated and transported by an inner city EMS system over two years. (1987, 1992). Data collected included patient demographics, prehospital treatment, and evaluated diagnostic criteria used by paramedics to initiate treatment. Students t test was performed for continuous data and contingency analysis (chisquare) for non-continuous data. A Wilks stepwise discriminant analysis was performed on 1987 and 1992 data to evaluate diagnostic factors.
Results: There were 407 transports in 1987 and 652 in 1992, representing a 60% increase. 237(56%) of patients received advanced life support (ALS) in 1987 and 344(53%) in 1992. Mean age of ALS patients in 1987 was 10.25 (±5.3) and was 8.03 (±2.8) in 1992 (p <0.001). Albuterol inhalation supplanted epinephrine (1987-205, 1992-1) and aminophylline (1987-15, 1992-1) as the treatment for asthma in our service system. The discriminant analysis revealed that in 1987, paramedics treatment decision making was influenced by age, cough, cold, and/or fever, home medications, accessory muscles, absence of wheezing, and normal respiratory rate. This changed in 1992 where only the presence or absence of wheezing and accessory muscle-use to be highly correlated with treatment decisions.