Evidence supports using dexamethasone for mild-to-moderate asthma exacerbations in the emergency department, but the effectiveness of dexamethasone versus prednisone for asthmatic patients who are hospitalized is unclear. Our aim was to compare outcomes for inpatients before and after our emergency department’s adoption of dexamethasone for the treatment of acute asthma exacerbations.
In this single-center retrospective cohort study, we employed interrupted time series analyses to control for secular trends while evaluating our outcomes of length of stay, total inflation-adjusted hospital charges, and ICU transfer rates for patients admitted with asthma.
Data were analyzed over 36 months (January 2014–April 2017) and included 1015 subjects (606 in the preprotocol change [pre-PC] group and 409 in the postprotocol change [post-PC] group). In the pre-PC group, prednisone only was used in 96% of subjects. In the post-PC group, prednisone only was used in 7% of subjects, dexamethasone in 65% of subjects, and a combination of the 2 steroids in 28% of subjects. Controlling for other variables in the interrupted time series model, we found no significant immediate differences between the pre-PC and post-PC periods for the outcomes of length of stay (P = .68), total charges (P = .66), and ICU transfers (P = .98). The rate of ICU transfers was stable pre-PC and increased by 10% (95% confidence interval: 2%–19%) per month (odds ratio = 1.10; 95% confidence interval: 1.02–1.19; P = .02) in the post-PC period.
After dexamethasone replaced prednisone as the most commonly prescribed steroid type for inpatients with asthma at our institution, we found no immediate changes in outcomes for asthmatic patients who were hospitalized but an upward trend in ICU transfers.