Giving patients a short course of corticosteroids after they have been discharged from hospital for an asthma attack reduces the chances of a relapse, a Cochrane Systematic Review has found. Giving the steroids also reduces their use of inhalers. The benefit lasts for about three weeks.
This updated finding was drawn after reviewing data in six trials that together involved 374 people.
Between 12% and 16% of people who are discharged from hospital after having an asthma attack have a relapse within two weeks. "There is considerable debate about the best way of treating people who have asthma attacks, including the dose, method of delivery and timing of delivery of corticosteroids.
Our research found clear evidence that people who arrived at a hospital with acute asthma and were well enough to be discharged benefited from the addition of corticosteroid therapy," says lead author Professor Brian Rowe, who works at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada.
"Our systematic review strongly supports the use of systemic corticosteroids for treatment of outpatients who leave hospital after an asthma attack," says colleague Carol Spooner.
The review, however, was not able to identify enough data to show whether there was any difference between oral or intramuscular routes of administration. This topic is the subject of a future Cochrane Systematic Review.