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1.  Key findings and clinical implications from The Epidemiology and Natural History of Asthma: Outcomes and Treatment Regimens (TENOR) study 
Patients with severe or difficult-to-treat asthma are an understudied population but account for considerable asthma morbidity, mortality, and costs. The Epidemiology and Natural History of Asthma: Outcomes and Treatment Regimens (TENOR) study was a large, 3-year, multicenter, observational cohort study of 4756 patients (n = 3489 adults ≥18 years of age, n = 497 adolescents 13-17 years of age, and n = 770 children 6-12 years of age) with severe or difficult-to-treat asthma. TENOR's primary objective was to characterize the natural history of disease in this cohort. Data assessed semiannually and annually included demographics, medical history, comorbidities, asthma control, asthma-related health care use, medication use, lung function, IgE levels, self-reported asthma triggers, and asthma-related quality of life. We highlight the key findings and clinical implications from more than 25 peer-reviewed TENOR publications. Regardless of age, patients with severe or difficult-to-treat asthma demonstrated high rates of health care use and substantial asthma burden despite receiving multiple long-term controller medications. Recent exacerbation history was the strongest predictor of future asthma exacerbations. Uncontrolled asthma, as defined by the 2007 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines’ impairment domain, was highly prevalent and predictive of future asthma exacerbations; this assessment can be used to identify high-risk patients. IgE and allergen sensitization played a role in the majority of severe or difficult-to-treat asthmatic patients.
doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2012.04.014
PMCID: PMC3622643  PMID: 22694932
TENOR; severe or difficult-to-treat asthma; asthma control; asthma exacerbations; burden; medication; quality of life; allergy; IgE
2.  Association of Adenotonsillectomy with Asthma Outcomes in Children: A Longitudinal Database Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(11):e1001753.
Rakesh Bhattacharjee and colleagues use data from a US private health insurance database to compare asthma severity measures in children one year before and one year after they underwent adenotonsillectomy with asthma measures in those who did not undergo adenotonsillectomy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Childhood asthma and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), both disorders of airway inflammation, were associated in recent observational studies. Although childhood OSA is effectively treated by adenotonsillectomy (AT), it remains unclear whether AT also improves childhood asthma. We hypothesized that AT, the first line of therapy for childhood OSA, would be associated with improved asthma outcomes and would reduce the usage of asthma therapies in children.
Methods and Findings
Using the 2003–2010 MarketScan database, we identified 13,506 children with asthma in the United States who underwent AT. Asthma outcomes during 1 y preceding AT were compared to those during 1 y following AT. In addition, 27,012 age-, sex-, and geographically matched children with asthma without AT were included to examine asthma outcomes among children without known adenotonsillar tissue morbidity. Primary outcomes included the occurrence of a diagnostic code for acute asthma exacerbation (AAE) or acute status asthmaticus (ASA). Secondary outcomes included temporal changes in asthma medication prescriptions, the frequency of asthma-related emergency room visits (ARERs), and asthma-related hospitalizations (ARHs). Comparing the year following AT to the year prior, AT was associated with significant reductions in AAE (30.2%; 95% CI: 25.6%–34.3%; p<0.0001), ASA (37.9%; 95% CI: 29.2%–45.6%; p<0.0001), ARERs (25.6%; 95% CI: 16.9%–33.3%; p<0.0001), and ARHs (35.8%; 95% CI: 19.6%–48.7%; p = 0.02). Moreover, AT was associated with significant reductions in most asthma prescription refills, including bronchodilators (16.7%; 95% CI: 16.1%–17.3%; p<0.001), inhaled corticosteroids (21.5%; 95% CI: 20.7%–22.3%; p<0.001), leukotriene receptor antagonists (13.4%; 95% CI: 12.9%–14.0%; p<0.001), and systemic corticosteroids (23.7%; 95% CI: 20.9%–26.5%; p<0.001). In contrast, there were no significant reductions in these outcomes in children with asthma who did not undergo AT over an overlapping follow-up period. Limitations of the MarketScan database include lack of information on race and obesity status. Also, the MarketScan database does not include information on children with public health insurance (i.e., Medicaid) or uninsured children.
Conclusions
In a very large sample of privately insured children, AT was associated with significant improvements in several asthma outcomes. Contingent on validation through prospectively designed clinical trials, this study supports the premise that detection and treatment of adenotonsillar tissue morbidity may serve as an important strategy for improving asthma control.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The global burden of asthma has been rising steadily over the past few decades. Nowadays, about 200–300 million adults and children worldwide are affected by asthma, a chronic condition caused by inflammation of the airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs). Although asthma can develop at any age, it is often diagnosed in childhood—asthma is one of the commonest chronic diseases in children. In the US, for example, asthma affects around 7.1 million children under the age of 18 years and is the third leading cause of hospitalization of children under the age of 15 years. In people with asthma, the airways can react very strongly to allergens such as animal fur or to irritants such as cigarette smoke. Exercise, cold air, and infections can trigger asthma attacks, which can be fatal. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma cannot be cured, but drugs can relieve its symptoms and prevent acute asthma attacks.
Why Was This Study Done?
Recent studies have found an association between severe childhood asthma and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In OSA, airway inflammation promotes hypertrophy (excess growth) of the adenoids and the tonsils, immune system tissues in the upper airway. During sleep, the presence of hypertrophic adenotonsillar tissues predisposes the walls of the throat to collapse, which results in apnea—a brief interruption in breathing. People with OSA often snore loudly and frequently wake from deep sleep as they struggle to breathe. Childhood OSA, which affects 2%–3% of children, can be effectively treated by removal of the adenoids and tonsils (adenotonsillectomy). Given the association between childhood OSA and severe asthma and given the involvement of airway inflammation in both conditions, might adenotonsillectomy also improve childhood asthma? Here, the researchers analyze data from the MarketScan database, a large database of US patients with private health insurance, to investigate whether adenotonsillectomy is associated with improvements in asthma outcomes and with reductions in the use of asthma therapies in children.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the database to identify 13,506 children with asthma who had undergone adenotonsillectomy and to obtain information about asthma outcomes among these children for the year before and the year after the operation. Because asthma severity tends to decrease with age, the researchers also used the database to identify 27,012 age-, sex-, and geographically matched children with asthma who did not have the operation so that they could examine asthma outcomes over an equivalent two-year period in the absence of complications related to adenotonsillar hypertrophy. Comparing the year after adenotonsillectomy with the year before the operation, adenotonsillectomy was associated with a 30% reduction in acute asthma exacerbations, a 37.9% reduction in acute status asthmaticus (an asthma attack that is unresponsive to the drugs usually used to treat attacks), a 25.6% reduction in asthma-related emergency room visits, and a 35.8% reduction in asthma-related hospitalizations. By contrast, among the control children, there was only a 2% reduction in acute asthma exacerbations and only a 7% reduction in acute status asthmaticus over an equivalent two-year period. Adenotonsillectomy was also associated with significant reductions (changes unlikely to have occurred by chance) in prescription refills for most types of drugs used to treat asthma, whereas there were no significant reductions in prescription refills among children with asthma who had not undergone adenotonsillectomy. The study was limited by the lack of measures of race and obesity, which are both associated with severity of asthma.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in a large sample of privately insured children in the US, adenotonsillectomy was associated with significant improvements in several asthma outcomes. These results do not show, however, that adenotonsillectomy caused a reduction in the severity of childhood asthma. It could be that the children who underwent adenotonsillectomy (but not those who did not have the operation) shared another unknown factor that led to improvements in their asthma over time. To prove a causal link, it will be necessary to undertake a randomized controlled trial in which the outcomes of groups of children with asthma who are chosen at random to undergo or not undergo adenotonsillectomy are compared. However, with the proviso that there are some risks associated with adenotonsillectomy, these findings suggest that the detection and treatment of adenotonsillar hypertrophy may help to improve asthma control in children.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001753.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on asthma, including videos, games, and links to other resources for children with asthma
The American Lung Association provides detailed information about asthma and a fact sheet on asthma in children; it also has information about obstructive sleep apnea
The National Sleep Foundation provides information on snoring and obstructive sleep apnea in children
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including some personal stories) about asthma, about asthma in children, and about obstructive sleep apnea
The “Global Asthma Report 2014” will be available in October 2014
MedlinePlus provides links to further information on asthma, on asthma in children, on sleep apnea, and on tonsils and adenoids (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001753
PMCID: PMC4219664  PMID: 25369282
3.  Subspecialty differences in asthma characteristics and management 
Objective
To determine the nature and extent to which asthma characteristics and management differ between allergy and pulmonary subspecialists.
Methods
We used baseline data from 3,342 adults enrolled in The Epidemiology and Natural History of Asthma: Outcomes and Treatment Regimens (TENOR) study, a multicenter, observational cohort recruited from subspecialty practices across the United States. Information on physician subspecialty, asthma history, allergic status, lung function, medication use, and recent healthcare utilization were collected via study coordinator-administered interviews and self-administered validated questionnaires.
Results
In the TENOR study, 2,407 (72%) patients were treated by allergists and 935 (28%) by pulmonologists. Patients treated by pulmonologists were more likely to be black, less educated, and have lower incomes than those treated by allergists. Pulmonary patients had more severe asthma as indicated by physician-assessment, GINA classification, lung function, and number of asthma control problems. Regular use of a short-acting beta-agonist and systemic corticosteroid use was also higher among pulmonary patients than allergy patients, consistent with greater asthma severity. Although evidence of allergic disease was prevalent in both types of patients, allergist treated patients were more likely to receive skin testing or immunotherapy. In multivariate analyses adjusted for demographic differences, patients treated by pulmonologists were more likely to report healthcare utilization for asthma in the past 3 months.
Conclusion
In general, asthma patients treated by pulmonologists are of lower socioeconomic status, have more severe disease, require more medication, and report greater healthcare utilization than those treated by allergists.
PMCID: PMC3102298  PMID: 18613995
Asthma; Allergist; Pulmonologist; Specialty; Practice patterns; TENOR
4.  Effects of BMI, Fat Mass, and Lean Mass on Asthma in Childhood: A Mendelian Randomization Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(7):e1001669.
In this study, Granell and colleagues used Mendelian randomization to investigate causal effects of BMI, fat mass, and lean mass on current asthma at age 7½ years in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and found that higher BMI increases the risk of asthma in mid-childhood.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Observational studies have reported associations between body mass index (BMI) and asthma, but confounding and reverse causality remain plausible explanations. We aim to investigate evidence for a causal effect of BMI on asthma using a Mendelian randomization approach.
Methods and Findings
We used Mendelian randomization to investigate causal effects of BMI, fat mass, and lean mass on current asthma at age 7½ y in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). A weighted allele score based on 32 independent BMI-related single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was derived from external data, and associations with BMI, fat mass, lean mass, and asthma were estimated. We derived instrumental variable (IV) estimates of causal risk ratios (RRs). 4,835 children had available data on BMI-associated SNPs, asthma, and BMI. The weighted allele score was strongly associated with BMI, fat mass, and lean mass (all p-values<0.001) and with childhood asthma (RR 2.56, 95% CI 1.38–4.76 per unit score, p = 0.003). The estimated causal RR for the effect of BMI on asthma was 1.55 (95% CI 1.16–2.07) per kg/m2, p = 0.003. This effect appeared stronger for non-atopic (1.90, 95% CI 1.19–3.03) than for atopic asthma (1.37, 95% CI 0.89–2.11) though there was little evidence of heterogeneity (p = 0.31). The estimated causal RRs for the effects of fat mass and lean mass on asthma were 1.41 (95% CI 1.11–1.79) per 0.5 kg and 2.25 (95% CI 1.23–4.11) per kg, respectively. The possibility of genetic pleiotropy could not be discounted completely; however, additional IV analyses using FTO variant rs1558902 and the other BMI-related SNPs separately provided similar causal effects with wider confidence intervals. Loss of follow-up was unlikely to bias the estimated effects.
Conclusions
Higher BMI increases the risk of asthma in mid-childhood. Higher BMI may have contributed to the increase in asthma risk toward the end of the 20th century.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The global burden of asthma, a chronic (long-term) condition caused by inflammation of the airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs), has been rising steadily over the past few decades. It is estimated that, nowadays, 200–300 million adults and children worldwide are affected by asthma. Although asthma can develop at any age, it is often diagnosed in childhood—asthma is the most common chronic disease in children. In people with asthma, the airways can react very strongly to allergens such as animal fur or to irritants such as cigarette smoke, becoming narrower so that less air can enter the lungs. Exercise, cold air, and infections can also trigger asthma attacks, which can be fatal. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma cannot be cured, but drugs can relieve its symptoms and prevent acute asthma attacks.
Why Was This Study Done?
We cannot halt the ongoing rise in global asthma rates without understanding the causes of asthma. Some experts think obesity may be one cause of asthma. Obesity, like asthma, is increasingly common, and observational studies (investigations that ask whether individuals exposed to a suspected risk factor for a condition develop that condition more often than unexposed individuals) in children have reported that body mass index (BMI, an indicator of body fat calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared) is positively associated with asthma. Observational studies cannot prove that obesity causes asthma because of “confounding.” Overweight children with asthma may share another unknown characteristic (confounder) that actually causes both obesity and asthma. Moreover, children with asthma may be less active than unaffected children, so they become overweight (reverse causality). Here, the researchers use “Mendelian randomization” to assess whether BMI has a causal effect on asthma. In Mendelian randomization, causality is inferred from associations between genetic variants that mimic the effect of a modifiable risk factor and the outcome of interest. Because gene variants are inherited randomly, they are not prone to confounding and are free from reverse causation. So, if a higher BMI leads to asthma, genetic variants associated with increased BMI should be associated with an increased risk of asthma.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers investigated causal effects of BMI, fat mass, and lean mass on current asthma at age 7½ years in 4,835 children enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC, a long-term health project that started in 1991). They calculated an allele score for each child based on 32 BMI-related genetic variants, and estimated associations between this score and BMI, fat mass and lean mass (both measured using a special type of X-ray scanner; in children BMI is not a good indicator of “fatness”), and asthma. They report that the allele score was strongly associated with BMI, fat mass, and lean mass, and with childhood asthma. The estimated causal relative risk (risk ratio) for the effect of BMI on asthma was 1.55 per kg/m2. That is, the relative risk of asthma increased by 55% for every extra unit of BMI. The estimated causal relative risks for the effects of fat mass and lean mass on asthma were 1.41 per 0.5 kg and 2.25 per kg, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that a higher BMI increases the risk of asthma in mid-childhood and that global increases in BMI toward the end of the 20th century may have contributed to the global increase in asthma that occurred at the same time. It is possible that the observed association between BMI and asthma reported in this study is underpinned by “genetic pleiotropy” (a potential limitation of all Mendelian randomization analyses). That is, some of the genetic variants included in the BMI allele score could conceivably also increase the risk of asthma. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that public health interventions designed to reduce obesity may also help to limit the global rise in asthma.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001669.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on asthma and on all aspects of overweight and obesity (in English and Spanish)
The World Health Organization provides information on asthma and on obesity (in several languages)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about asthma, about asthma in children, and about obesity (including real stories)
The Global Asthma Report 2011 is available
The Global Initiative for Asthma released its updated Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention on World Asthma Day 2014
Information about the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children is available
MedlinePlus provides links to further information on obesity in children, on asthma, and on asthma in children (in English and Spanish
Wikipedia has a page on Mendelian randomization (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001669
PMCID: PMC4077660  PMID: 24983943
5.  Genome-wide association study of asthma identifies RAD50-IL13 and HLA-DR/DQ regions 
Background
Asthma is a heterogeneous disease that is caused by the interaction of genetic susceptibility with environmental influences. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) represent a powerful approach to investigate the association of DNA variants with disease susceptibility. To date, few GWAS for asthma have been reported.
Objectives
GWAS was performed on a population of severe or difficult-to-treat asthmatics to identify genes that are involved in the pathogenesis of asthma.
Methods
292,443 SNPs were tested for association with asthma in 473 TENOR cases and 1,892 Illumina general population controls. Asthma-related quantitative traits (total serum IgE, FEV1, FVC, and FEV1/FVC) were also tested in identified candidate regions in 473 TENOR cases and 363 phenotyped controls without a history of asthma to further analyze GWAS results. Imputation was performed in identified candidate regions for analysis with denser SNP coverage.
Results
Multiple SNPs in the RAD50-IL13 region on chromosome 5q31.1 were associated with asthma: rs2244012 in intron 2 of RAD50 (P = 3.04E-07). The HLA-DR/DQ region on chromosome 6p21.3 was also associated with asthma: rs1063355 in the 3’ UTR of HLA-DQB1 (P = 9.55E-06). Imputation identified several significant SNPs in the TH2 locus control region (LCR) 3’ of RAD50. Imputation also identified a more significant SNP, rs3998159 (P = 1.45E-06), between HLA-DQB1 and HLA-DQA2.
Conclusion
This GWAS confirmed the important role of TH2 cytokine and antigen presentation genes in asthma at a genome-wide level and the importance of additional investigation of these two regions to delineate their structural complexity and biologic function in the development of asthma.
doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2009.11.018
PMCID: PMC2824608  PMID: 20159242
Asthma; GWAS; RAD50; IL13; HLA-DQB1; TENOR
6.  Allergic rhinitis: evidence for impact on asthma 
BMC Pulmonary Medicine  2006;6(Suppl 1):S4.
Background
This paper reviews the current evidence indicating that comorbid allergic rhinitis may have clinically relevant effects on asthma.
Discussion
Allergic rhinitis is very common in patients with asthma, with a reported prevalence of up to 100% in those with allergic asthma. While the temporal relation of allergic rhinitis and asthma diagnoses can be variable, the diagnosis of allergic rhinitis often precedes that of asthma. Rhinitis is an independent risk factor for the subsequent development of asthma in both atopic and nonatopic individuals. Controlled studies have provided conflicting results regarding the benefits for asthma symptoms of treating comorbid allergic rhinitis with intranasal corticosteroids. Effects of other treatments for comorbid allergic rhinitis, including antihistamines, allergen immunotherapy, systemic anti-IgE therapy, and antileukotriene agents, have been examined in a limited number of studies; anti-IgE therapy and antileukotriene agents such as the leukotriene receptor antagonists have benefits for treating both allergic rhinitis and asthma. Results of observational studies indicate that treating comorbid allergic rhinitis results in a lowered risk of asthma-related hospitalizations and emergency visits. Results of several retrospective database studies in the United States and in Europe indicate that, for patients with asthma, the presence of comorbid allergic rhinitis is associated with higher total annual medical costs, greater prescribing frequency of asthma-related medications, as well as increased likelihood of asthma-related hospital admissions and emergency visits. There is therefore evidence suggesting that comorbid allergic rhinitis is a marker for more difficult to control asthma and worsened asthma outcomes.
Conclusion
These findings highlight the potential for improving asthma outcomes by following a combined therapeutic approach to comorbid allergic rhinitis and asthma rather than targeting each condition separately.
doi:10.1186/1471-2466-6-S1-S4
PMCID: PMC1698497  PMID: 17140422
7.  Combination formoterol and inhaled steroid versus beta2-agonist as relief medication for chronic asthma in adults and children 
Background
Formoterol has a fast onset of action and can therefore be used to relieve symptoms of asthma. A combination inhaler can deliver formoterol with different doses of inhaled corticosteroid; when used as a reliever both drugs will be delivered more frequently when asthma symptoms increase. This has the potential to treat both bronchoconstriction and inflammation in the early stages of exacerbations.
Objectives
To assess the efficacy and safety of combined inhalers containing both formoterol and an inhaled corticosteroid when used for reliever therapy in adults and children with chronic asthma.
Search methods
We last searched the Cochrane Airways Group trials register in April 2009, and no new studies were found for inclusion in the review.
Selection criteria
Randomised trials in adults and children with chronic asthma, where a combination inhaler containing formoterol and inhaled corticosteroid is compared with fast-acting beta2-agonist alone for the relief of asthma symptoms. This should be the only planned difference between the trial arms.
Data collection and analysis
Two review authors independently extracted the characteristics and results of each study. Authors or manufacturers were asked to supply unpublished data in relation to primary outcomes.
Main results
Three trials involving 5905 participants were included. In patients with mild asthma who do not need maintenance treatment, no clinically important advantages of budesonide/formoterol as reliever were found in comparison to formoterol as reliever.
Two studies enrolled patients with more severe asthma who were not controlled on high doses of inhaled corticosteroids (around 700 mcg/day in adults), and had suffered a clinically important asthma exacerbation in the past year. Hospitalisations related to asthma in the two studies comparing budesonide/formoterol for maintenance and relief with the same dose of budesonide/formoterol for maintenance with terbutaline for relief yielded an odds ratio of 0.68 (95% CI 0.40 to 1.16), which was not a statistically significant reduction. In adults there was a reduction in exacerbations requiring oral corticosteroids compared to terbutaline, odds ratio 0.54 (95% CI 0.44 to 0.65), which translates into a number needed to treat over 12 months of 15 (95% CI 13 to 21). The study in children found less serious adverse events with budesonide/formoterol used for maintenance and relief. There was no significant difference in annual growth in children using budesonide/formoterol reliever in comparison to terbutaline.
Authors’ conclusions
In mild asthma it is not yet known whether patients who use a budesonide/formoterol inhaler for relief of asthma symptoms derive any clinically important benefits. In more severe asthma, two studies enrolled patients who were not controlled on inhaled corticosteroids, and had suffered an exacerbation in the previous year, and then had their maintenance inhaled corticosteroids reduced in both arms of the study. Under these conditions the studies demonstrated a reduction in the risk of exacerbations that require oral corticosteroids with budesonide/formoterol for maintenance and relief in comparison with budesonide/formoterol for maintenance and terbutaline or formoterol for relief. The incidence of serious adverse events in children was also less using budesonide/formoterol for maintenance and relief in one study, which similarly enrolled children who were not controlled on inhaled corticosteroids, and who had their maintenance inhaled corticosteroids reduced at the start of the study. This study also compared an explorative maintenance dose of budesonide/formoterol that is not approved for treatment.
doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007085.pub2
PMCID: PMC4023854  PMID: 19160317
Administration, Inhalation; Anti-Asthmatic Agents [*administration & dosage]; Asthma [*drug therapy]; Bronchial Diseases [drug therapy]; Bronchodilator Agents [*administration & dosage]; Budesonide [*administration & dosage]; Chronic Disease; Constriction, Pathologic [drug therapy]; Drug Combinations; Ethanolamines [*administration & dosage]; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Terbutaline [administration & dosage]; Adolescent; Adult; Child; Humans
8.  Asthma in adults 
Clinical Evidence  2010;2010:1501.
Introduction
About 10% of adults have suffered an attack of asthma, and up to 5% of these have severe disease that responds poorly to treatment. Patients with severe disease have an increased risk of death, but patients with mild-to-moderate disease are also at risk of exacerbations. Most guidelines about the management of asthma follow stepwise protocols. This review does not endorse or follow any particular protocol, but presents the evidence about specific interventions.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of treatments for chronic asthma? What are the effects of treatments for acute asthma? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to June 2008 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results
We found 99 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Conclusions
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions. For acute asthma: beta2 agonists (plus ipratropium bromide, pressured metered-dose inhalers, short-acting continuous nebulised, short-acting intermittent nebulised, and short-acting intravenous); corticosteroids (inhaled); corticosteroids (single oral, combined inhaled, and short courses); education about acute asthma; generalist care; helium-oxygen mixture (heliox); magnesium sulphate (intravenous and adding isotonic nebulised magnesium to inhaled beta2 agonists); mechanical ventilation; oxygen supplementation (controlled 28% oxygen and controlled 100% oxygen); and specialist care. For chronic asthma: beta2 agonists (adding long-acting inhaled beta2 agonists when asthma is poorly controlled by inhaled corticosteroids, or short-acting inhaled beta2 agonists as needed for symptom relief); inhaled corticosteroids (low dose and increasing dose); leukotriene antagonists (with or without inhaled corticosteroids); and theophylline (when poorly controlled by inhaled corticosteroids).
Key Points
About 10% of adults have suffered an attack of asthma, and up to 5% of these have severe disease that responds poorly to treatment. These people have an increased risk of death.
Most guidelines about the management of asthma follow stepwise protocols. This review does not endorse or follow any particular protocol, but presents the evidence about specific interventions.
Taking short-acting beta2 agonists as needed is as likely to relieve symptoms and improve lung function as a regular dosing schedule in adults with chronic asthma.
Adding long-acting beta2 agonists to inhaled corticosteroids decreases the number of exacerbations and improves symptoms, lung function, and quality of life in people with mild-to-moderate persistent asthma that is poorly controlled with corticosteroids.
CAUTION: Long-acting beta2 agonists have been associated with increased asthma-related mortality, and should always be used with inhaled corticosteroids.
Low-dose inhaled corticosteroids improve symptoms and lung function in persistent asthma compared with placebo or regular inhaled beta2 agonists. Leukotriene antagonists are more effective than placebo at reducing symptoms, but we don't know if adding leukotriene antagonists to inhaled corticosteroids is of benefit in people with chronic asthma.CAUTION: Leukotriene antagonists have been associated with a possible increased risk of neuropsychiatric events.Adding theophylline to inhaled corticosteroids may improve lung function in people with mild or moderate chronic asthma that is poorly controlled with inhaled corticosteroids, but we don't know if they are of benefit compared with long-acting beta2 agonists or leukotriene antagonists.
In people with an acute attack of asthma, supplementation of beta2 agonists with 28% oxygen, systemic corticosteroids (short courses), additional beta2 agonists (various routes of administration), or ipratropium bromide improve symptoms. Inhaled corticosteroids seem to improve lung function in people with acute asthma. However, we don't know whether inhaled corticosteroids are as effective as systemic corticosteroids at improving symptom severity, lung function, and hospital admissions. Inhaled plus oral corticosteroids and oral corticosteroids alone may have similar effects in preventing relapse and improving lung function.Beta2 agonists delivered from a metered-dose inhaler using a spacer are as effective at improving lung function as those given by a nebuliser or given intravenously. Giving beta2 agonists intravenously is more invasive than giving beta2 agonists by nebuliser.In people with severe acute asthma, continuous nebulised short-acting beta2 agonists may also improve lung function more than intermittent nebulised short-acting beta2 agonists.We don't know if intravenous magnesium sulphate, nebulised magnesium alone, or adding nebulised magnesium to inhaled beta2 agonists improves lung function in people with acute asthma.We don't know whether helium-oxygen mixture (heliox) is more effective at improving lung function compared with usual care. Mechanical ventilation may be life saving in severe acute asthma, but it is associated with high levels of morbidity. Specialist care of acute asthma may lead to improved outcomes compared with generalist care.We don't know whether education to help self-manage asthma improves symptom severity, lung function, or quality of life, but it may reduce hospital admissions.
PMCID: PMC2907598  PMID: 21718577
9.  The Effects of Bronchiectasis on Asthma Exacerbation 
Background
Bronchiectasis and asthma are different in many respects, but some patients have both conditions. Studies assessing the effect of bronchiectasis on asthma exacerbation are rare. The aim of this study is to investigate the effect of bronchiectasis on asthma exacerbation.
Methods
We enrolled 2,270 asthma patients who were followed up in our hospital. Fifty patients had bronchiectasis and asthma. We selected fifty age- and sex-matched controls from the 2,220 asthma patients without bronchiectasis, and assessed asthma exacerbation and its severity based on the annual incidence of total asthma exacerbation, annual prevalence of steroid use, and frequency of emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to asthma exacerbation in each group.
Results
Fifty patients (2.2%) had bronchiectasis and asthma. The annual incidence of asthma exacerbation was higher in patients with asthma and bronchiectasis than in patients with asthma alone (1.08±1.68 vs. 0.35±0.42, p=0.004). The annual prevalence of steroid use (0.9±1.54 vs. 0.26±0.36, p=0.006) and the frequency of emergency room visits (0.46±0.84 vs. 0.02±0.13, p=0.001) due to asthma exacerbation were also higher in patients with asthma and bronchiectasis than in patients with asthma alone.
Conclusion
Bronchiectasis is associated with difficult asthma control.
doi:10.4046/trd.2014.77.5.209
PMCID: PMC4250920  PMID: 25473408
Bronchiectasis; Asthma; Disease Exacerbation
10.  276 A 4-Year Follow-up in Children With Moderate/Severe Asthma after Withdrawal 1 Year Omalizumab Treatment 
Background
Asthma guidelines include omalizumab in the step up management in those patients with severe non-controlled asthma despite the use of the inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) at the highest dose recommended and/or oral corticosteroids (OCS) courses. This communication describes the 4 year follow up of children with moderate/severe allergic asthma treated for 1 year with add-on omalizumab after discontinuation.
Methods
7 children (6 to <12 years) with moderate/severe uncontrolled asthma following strict inclusion/exclusion criteria. The patients completed a 1 year treatment with omalizumab according to the DBPC CIGE025 clinical study protocol. Four years follow up after discontinuation of the study medication was performed. It included clinical assessment, different asthma-related outcomes and lung function in outpatient hospital office
Results
All patients that received xolair during the study period achieved good asthma control and high dose ICS (mean dose fluticasone 500 mcg) were could be discontinued. Surprisingly, the 7 patients that received Xolair for one year were completely free of asthma symptoms during the first 3 years of follow up. They did not use any additional asthma medication. After the third year of follow up, only 2 out of 7 (28%) patients begun with persistent asthma symptoms and exacerbations. These patients have required rescue medication and then regular controller medication (budesonide 400 mcg). We could not identified any risk factor helping in predicting those who had symptoms relapsing. Lung function, number of exacerbation, number of hospitalization, eosinophilia, IgE levels or previous treatments with OCS
Conclusions
Most of these patients 5 out of 7 still remain asymptomatic 4 years after discontinuation Xolair without regular ICS treatment. They are still not using any controller medication only 2 patients had exacerbations and at present show persistent mild asthma controlled with medium ICS therapy. This follow up would generate the hypothesis that omalizumab could have a potential as a modifier of the natural history of asthma beyond the improvement of symptoms control in children with moderate/severe uncontrolled asthma. Further studies are needed to test this hypothesis.
doi:10.1097/01.WOX.0000412033.47007.6f
PMCID: PMC3512580
11.  Secondary Outcomes of a Pilot Randomized Trial of Azithromycin Treatment for Asthma 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2006;1(2):e11.
Objectives:
The respiratory pathogen Chlamydia pneumoniae (C. pneumoniae) produces acute and chronic lung infections and is associated with asthma. Evidence for effectiveness of antichlamydial antibiotics in asthma is limited. The primary objective of this pilot study was to investigate the feasibility of performing an asthma clinical trial in practice settings where most asthma is encountered and managed. The secondary objectives were to investigate (1) whether azithromycin treatment would affect any asthma outcomes and (2) whether C. pneumoniae serology would be related to outcomes. This report presents the secondary results.
Design:
Randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded (participants, physicians, study personnel, data analysts), allocation-concealed parallel group clinical trial.
Setting:
Community-based health-care settings located in four states and one Canadian province.
Participants:
Adults with stable, persistent asthma.
Interventions:
Azithromycin (six weekly doses) or identical matching placebo, plus usual community care.
Outcome Measures:
Juniper Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (Juniper AQLQ), symptom, and medication changes from baseline (pretreatment) to 3 mo posttreatment (follow-up); C. pneumoniae IgG and IgA antibodies at baseline and follow-up.
Results:
Juniper AQLQ improved by 0.25 (95% confidence interval; −0.3, 0.8) units, overall asthma symptoms improved by 0.68 (0.1, 1.3) units, and rescue inhaler use decreased by 0.59 (−0.5, 1.6) daily administrations in azithromycin-treated compared to placebo-treated participants. Baseline IgA antibodies were positively associated with worsening overall asthma symptoms at follow-up (p = 0.04), but IgG was not (p = 0.63). Overall asthma symptom improvement attributable to azithromycin was 28% in high IgA participants versus 12% in low IgA participants (p for interaction = 0.27).
Conclusions:
Azithromycin did not improve Juniper AQLQ but appeared to improve overall asthma symptoms. Larger community-based trials of antichlamydial antibiotics for asthma are warranted.
Editorial Commentary
Background: Chlamydia pneumoniae is a common bacterium thought to be responsible for a substantial proportion of community-acquired pneumonia and bronchitis infections. There is some observational evidence associating chronic C. pneumoniae infection with more severe symptoms in people with asthma. However, there are very little data from clinical trials determining whether treatment with antibiotics active against C. pneumoniae has an effect on the control of asthma.
What this trial shows: In this trial, the researchers randomized 45 adults who were being treated for asthma in primary care to receive either azithromycin (an antibiotic active against C. pneumoniae) or placebo, in addition to their usual asthma care. Participants were followed up for 3 mo after completion of treatment, during which time participants recorded data relating to their overall symptoms and daily activities on a 5-point scale, and use of bronchodilators. At the start of the trial, and at 3-mo follow-up, participants also completed a quality-of-life questionnaire using a validated scale. The primary objective of this trial was to investigate the feasibility of running an asthma trial in the primary care setting, and in using IVR telephone systems to collect the outcome data, reported in [13]. In this paper, the asthma outcomes are reported. Participants receiving azithromycin did not show a significant improvement in quality of life at 3-mo follow-up as compared to participants receiving placebo. However, the investigators did see a significant improvement in the overall symptoms recorded by participants receiving azithromycin, as compared to placebo.
Strengths and limitations: The randomization methods in the trial were appropriate, as was the choice of placebo as a comparison for azithromycin. However, the number of participants in the trial was small, and it is likely that many more participants would need to be recruited to conclusively demonstrate or disprove an effect of azithromycin on asthma-related quality of life. Further, the trial used three different measures for asthma outcomes: (1) the quality-of-life questionnaire, (2) measurement of symptoms and daily activities on a 5-point scale, and (3) bronchodilator use. Only the quality-of-life questionnaire is validated, making it difficult to compare the results with those of other asthma trials.
Contribution to the evidence: This trial provides suggestive evidence that azithromycin may have benefits in the treatment of asthma, but should not on its own lead to a change in practice. The study provides a good basis for a larger randomized trial of such treatments, which would need to assess reliably the effect of these drugs not only on symptoms but also on quality of life. Information gained from this trial would help to design several aspects of future studies, e.g., their size, follow-up duration, and suitable outcome measures.
doi:10.1371/journal.pctr.0010011
PMCID: PMC1488900  PMID: 16871333
12.  Dysfunctional breathing phenotype in adults with asthma - incidence and risk factors 
Background
Abnormal breathing patterns may cause characteristic symptoms and impair quality of life. In a cross-sectional survey 29% of adults treated for asthma in primary care had symptoms suggestive of dysfunctional breathing (DB), more likely to be female and younger, with no differences for severity of asthma. No clear risk factors were demonstrated for DB in asthma, nor the impact of asthma medication was evaluated. The objective of this study was to describe the DB phenotype in adults with asthma treated in a specialised asthma centre.
Methods
Adult patients aged 17–65 with diagnosed asthma were screened for DB using the Nijmegen questionnaire (positive predictive score >23) and confirmed by progressive exercise testing. The following were evaluated as independent risk factors for DB in the multiple regression analysis: female sex; atopy, obesity, active smoker, moderate/severe rhinitis, psychopathology, GERD, arterial hypertension; severe asthma, asthma duration > 5 years, lack of asthma control, fixed airway obstruction, fast lung function decline, frequent exacerbator and brittle asthma phenotypes; lack of ICS, use of LABA or LTRA.
Results
91 adults with asthma, mean age 35.04 ±1.19 years, 47(51.65%) females were evaluated. 27 (29.67%) subjects had a positive screening score on Nijmegen questionnaire and 16(17.58%) were confirmed by progressive exercise testing as having DB. Independent risk factors for DB were psychopathology (p = 0.000002), frequent exacerbator asthma phenotype (p = 0.01) and uncontrolled asthma (p < 0.000001).
Conclusion
Dysfunctional breathing is not infrequent in asthma patients and should be evaluated in asthma patients presenting with psychopathology, frequent severe asthma exacerbations or uncontrolled asthma. Asthma medication (ICS, LABA or LTRA) had no significant relation with dysfunctional breathing.
doi:10.1186/2045-7022-2-18
PMCID: PMC3502326  PMID: 22992302
Dysfunctional breathing; Asthma; Co-morbidities; Phenotype
13.  Preterm Birth and Childhood Wheezing Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(1):e1001596.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Jasper Been and colleagues investigate the association between preterm birth and the development of wheezing disorders in childhood.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Accumulating evidence implicates early life factors in the aetiology of non-communicable diseases, including asthma/wheezing disorders. We undertook a systematic review investigating risks of asthma/wheezing disorders in children born preterm, including the increasing numbers who, as a result of advances in neonatal care, now survive very preterm birth.
Methods and Findings
Two reviewers independently searched seven online databases for contemporaneous (1 January 1995–23 September 2013) epidemiological studies investigating the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders. Additional studies were identified through reference and citation searches, and contacting international experts. Quality appraisal was undertaken using the Effective Public Health Practice Project instrument. We pooled unadjusted and adjusted effect estimates using random-effects meta-analysis, investigated “dose–response” associations, and undertook subgroup, sensitivity, and meta-regression analyses to assess the robustness of associations.
We identified 42 eligible studies from six continents. Twelve were excluded for population overlap, leaving 30 unique studies involving 1,543,639 children. Preterm birth was associated with an increased risk of wheezing disorders in unadjusted (13.7% versus 8.3%; odds ratio [OR] 1.71, 95% CI 1.57–1.87; 26 studies including 1,500,916 children) and adjusted analyses (OR 1.46, 95% CI 1.29–1.65; 17 studies including 874,710 children). The risk was particularly high among children born very preterm (<32 wk gestation; unadjusted: OR 3.00, 95% CI 2.61–3.44; adjusted: OR 2.81, 95% CI 2.55–3.12). Findings were most pronounced for studies with low risk of bias and were consistent across sensitivity analyses. The estimated population-attributable risk of preterm birth for childhood wheezing disorders was ≥3.1%.
Key limitations related to the paucity of data from low- and middle-income countries, and risk of residual confounding.
Conclusions
There is compelling evidence that preterm birth—particularly very preterm birth—increases the risk of asthma. Given the projected global increases in children surviving preterm births, research now needs to focus on understanding underlying mechanisms, and then to translate these insights into the development of preventive interventions.
Review Registration
PROSPERO CRD42013004965
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks, but worldwide, more than 11% of babies are born before 37 weeks of gestation (the period during which a baby develops in its mother's womb). Preterm birth is a major cause of infant death—more than 1 million babies die annually from preterm birth complications—and the number of preterm births is increasing globally. Multiple pregnancies, infections, and chronic (long-term) maternal conditions such as diabetes can all cause premature birth, but the cause of many preterm births is unknown. The most obvious immediate complication that is associated with preterm birth is respiratory distress syndrome. This breathing problem, which is more common in early preterm babies than in near-term babies, occurs because the lungs of premature babies are structurally immature and lack pulmonary surfactant, a unique mixture of lipids and proteins that coats the inner lining of the lungs and helps to prevent the collapse of the small air sacs in the lungs that absorb oxygen from the air. Consequently, preterm babies often need help with their breathing and oxygen supplementation.
Why Was This Study Done?
Improvements in the management of prematurity mean that more preterm babies survive today than in the past. However, accumulating evidence suggests that early life events are involved in the subsequent development of non-communicable diseases (non-infectious chronic diseases). Given the increasing burden of preterm birth, a better understanding of the long-term effects of preterm birth is essential. Here, the researchers investigate the risks of asthma and wheezing disorders in children who are born preterm by undertaking a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and a meta-analysis (a statistical method for combining the results of several studies). Asthma is a chronic condition that is caused by inflammation of the airways. In people with asthma, the airways can react very strongly to allergens such as animal fur and to irritants such as cigarette smoke. Exercise, cold air, and infections can also trigger asthma attacks, which can sometimes be fatal. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound during breathing), coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma cannot be cured, but drugs can relieve its symptoms and prevent acute asthma attacks.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 30 studies undertaken between 1995 and the present (a time span chosen to allow for recent changes in the management of prematurity) that investigated the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders in more than 1.5 million children. Across the studies, 13.7% of preterm babies developed asthma/wheezing disorders during childhood, compared to only 8.3% of babies born at term. Thus, the risk of preterm babies developing asthma or a wheezing disorder during childhood was 1.71 times higher than the risk of term babies developing these conditions (an unadjusted odds ratio [OR] of 1.71). In analyses that allowed for confounding factors—other factors that affect the risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders such as maternal smoking—the risk of preterm babies developing asthma or a wheezing disorder during childhood was 1.46 times higher than that of babies born at term (an adjusted OR of 1.46). Notably, compared to children born at term, children born very early (before 32 weeks of gestation) had about three times the risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders in unadjusted and adjusted analyses. Finally, the population-attributable risk of preterm birth for childhood wheezing disorders was more than 3.1%. That is, if no preterm births had occurred, there would have been more than a 3.1% reduction in childhood wheezing disorders.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings strongly suggest that preterm birth increases the risk of asthma and wheezing disorders during childhood and that the risk of asthma/wheezing disorders increases as the degree of prematurity increases. The accuracy of these findings may be affected, however, by residual confounding. That is, preterm children may share other, unknown characteristics that increase their risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders. Moreover, the generalizability of these findings is limited by the lack of data from low- and middle-income countries. However, given the projected global increases in children surviving preterm births, these findings highlight the need to undertake research into the mechanisms underlying the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders and the need to develop appropriate preventative and therapeutic measures.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001596.
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
Nemours, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information (in English and Spanish) on premature babies and on asthma (including personal stories)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about premature labor and birth and a real story about having a preterm baby; it provides information about asthma in children (including real stories)
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has pages on preterm birth, asthma, asthma in children, and wheezing (in English and Spanish); MedlinePlus provides links to further information on premature birth, asthma, and asthma in children (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001596
PMCID: PMC3904844  PMID: 24492409
14.  Influences on hospital admission for asthma in south Asian and white adults: qualitative interview study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2001;323(7319):962.
Objective
To explore reasons for increased risk of hospital admission among south Asian patients with asthma.
Design
Qualitative interview study using modified critical incident technique and framework analysis.
Setting
Newham, east London, a deprived area with a large mixed south Asian population.
Participants
58 south Asian and white adults with asthma (49 admitted to hospital with asthma, 9 not admitted); 17 general practitioners; 5 accident and emergency doctors; 2 out of hours general practitioners; 1 asthma specialist nurse.
Main outcome measures
Patients' and health professionals' views on influences on admission, events leading to admission, general practices' organisation and asthma strategies, doctor-patient relationship, and cultural attitudes to asthma.
Results
South Asian and white patients admitted to hospital coped differently with asthma. South Asians described less confidence in controlling their asthma, were unfamiliar with the concept of preventive medication, and often expressed less confidence in their general practitioner. South Asians managed asthma exacerbations with family advocacy, without systematic changes in prophylaxis, and without systemic corticosteroids. Patients describing difficulty accessing primary care during asthma exacerbations were registered with practices with weak strategies for asthma care and were often south Asian. Patients with easy access described care suggesting partnerships with their general practitioner, had better confidence to control asthma, and were registered with practices with well developed asthma strategies that included policies for avoiding hospital admission.
Conclusions
The different ways of coping with asthma exacerbations and accessing care may partly explain the increased risk of hospital admission in south Asian patients. Interventions that increase confidence to control asthma, confidence in the general practitioner, understanding of preventive treatment, and use of systemic corticosteroids in exacerbations may reduce hospital admissions. Development of more sophisticated asthma strategies by practices with better access and partnerships with patients may also achieve this.
What is already known on this topicSouth Asian patients with asthma are at increased risk of hospital admission with asthma compared with white patientsNo consistent differences in severity or prevalence of asthma, prescribed drugs, or asthma education have been described, and interventions to reduce admission rates in Asian patients have met with variable successWhat this study addsCompared with white patients, south Asian patients admitted to hospital with asthma had less confidence to control asthma, were unfamiliar with the concept of preventive medication, and had less confidence in their general practitionersSouth Asian patients managed asthma attacks through family advocacy and without systematic changes in prophylaxis and without systemic corticosteroidsPatients reporting difficulty in accessing primary care during attacks were often south Asian
PMCID: PMC59689  PMID: 11679384
15.  Asthma in adults (acute) 
Clinical Evidence  2011;2011:1513.
Introduction
About 10% of adults have suffered an attack of asthma, and up to 5% of these have severe disease that responds poorly to treatment. Patients with severe disease have an increased risk of death, but patients with mild to moderate disease are also at risk of exacerbations. Most guidelines about the management of asthma follow stepwise protocols. This review does not endorse or follow any particular protocol, but presents the evidence about specific interventions.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical question: What are the effects of treatments for acute asthma? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to April 2010 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results
We found 100 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Conclusions
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: beta2 agonists (plus ipratropium bromide, pressured metered-dose inhalers, short-acting continuous nebulised, short-acting intermittent nebulised, short-acting iv, and inhaled formoterol); corticosteroids (inhaled); corticosteroids (single oral, combined inhaled, and short courses); education about acute asthma; generalist care; helium–oxygen mixture (heliox); magnesium sulphate (iv and adding isotonic nebulised magnesium to inhaled beta2 agonists); mechanical ventilation; oxygen supplementation (controlled 28% oxygen and controlled 100% oxygen); and specialist care.
Key Points
About 10% of adults have suffered an attack of asthma, and up to 5% of these have severe disease that responds poorly to treatment. These people have an increased risk of death.
Most guidelines about the management of asthma follow stepwise protocols. This review does not endorse or follow any particular protocol, but presents the evidence about specific interventions.
Inhaled short-acting beta2 agonists are considered the mainstay of treatment for acute asthma.
In people with an acute attack of asthma, supplementation of beta2 agonists with low oxygen concentrations, systemic corticosteroids (short courses), additional beta2 agonists (various routes of administration), or ipratropium bromide improves symptoms. Inhaled corticosteroids seem to improve lung function in people with acute asthma. However, we don't know whether inhaled corticosteroids are as effective as systemic corticosteroids at improving symptom severity, lung function, and hospital admissions. Inhaled plus oral corticosteroids and oral corticosteroids alone may have similar effects in preventing relapse.Beta2 agonists delivered from a metered-dose inhaler using a spacer are as effective at improving lung function as those given by a nebuliser or given iv. Giving beta2 agonists iv is more invasive than giving beta2 agonists by nebuliser.In people with severe acute asthma, continuous nebulised short-acting beta2 agonists may also improve lung function more than intermittent nebulised short-acting beta2 agonists.The inhaled long-acting beta2 agonist formoterol seems to be at least equivalent to the short-acting beta2 agonists salbutamol and terbutaline in terms of pulmonary function in moderate to severe acute asthma treatment. On the basis of research undertaken in people with chronic asthma, the FDA has recommended minimising the use of long-acting beta agonists because of an increased risk of asthma exacerbations, hospital admissions, and death. The FDA acknowledges that they do have an important role in helping some patients control asthma symptoms.We don't know if iv magnesium sulphate, nebulised magnesium alone, or adding nebulised magnesium to inhaled beta2 agonists improves lung function in people with acute asthma.We don't know whether helium–oxygen mixture (heliox) is more effective at improving lung function compared with usual care.Mechanical ventilation may be life saving in severe acute asthma, but it is associated with high levels of morbidity. Specialist care of acute asthma may lead to improved outcomes compared with generalist care.We don't know whether education to help self-manage asthma improves symptom severity, lung function, or quality of life, but it may reduce hospital admissions.
PMCID: PMC3661228  PMID: 21463536
16.  The relationship between combination inhaled corticosteroid and long-acting beta-agonist use and severe asthma exacerbations in a diverse population 
Background
Safety concerns surround the use of long-acting beta agonists (LABA) for the treatment of asthma, even in combination with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and particularly in high-risk subgroups.
Objective
To estimate the effect ICS therapy and fixed-dose ICS/LABA combination therapy on severe asthma exacerbations in a racially diverse population.
Methods
Inhaled corticosteroid and ICS/LABA exposure was estimated from pharmacy data for patients with asthma age 12 to 56 years who were members of a large health maintenance organization. Inhaled corticosteroid and ICS/LABA use was estimated for each day of follow-up to create a moving window of exposure. Proportional hazard models were used to assess the relationship between ICS and ICS/LABA combination therapy and severe asthma exacerbations (i.e., use of oral corticosteroids, asthma-related emergency department visit, or asthma-related hospitalization).
Results
Among the 1,828 patients who met the inclusion criteria, 37% were African American, 46% were treated with ICS therapy alone, and 54% were treated with an ICS/LABA combination. Models assessing the risk of severe asthma exacerbations among individuals using ICS treatment alone and ICS/LABA combination therapy suggested that the overall protective effect was as good or better for ICS/LABA combination therapy when compared with ICS treatment alone (hazard ratio [HR]=0.65 vs. HR=0.72, respectively). Analyses in several subgroups, including African American patients, showed a similar statistically significant protective association for combination therapy.
Conclusion
Treatment with ICS/LABA fixed combination therapy appeared to perform as well or better than ICS alone in reducing severe asthma exacerbations; this included multiple high-risk subgroups.
doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2011.12.974
PMCID: PMC3340459  PMID: 22281166
Long-acting beta-agonist; inhaled corticosteroid; severe asthma exacerbation; safety; racially and ethnically diverse population; observational study
17.  Individual-level socioeconomic status is associated with worse asthma morbidity in patients with asthma 
Respiratory Research  2009;10(1):125.
Background
Low socioeconomic status (SES) has been linked to higher morbidity in patients with chronic diseases, but may be particularly relevant to asthma, as asthmatics of lower SES may have higher exposures to indoor (e.g., cockroaches, tobacco smoke) and outdoor (e.g., urban pollution) allergens, thus increasing risk for exacerbations.
Methods
This study assessed associations between adult SES (measured according to educational level) and asthma morbidity, including asthma control; asthma-related emergency health service use; asthma self-efficacy, and asthma-related quality of life, in a Canadian cohort of 781 adult asthmatics. All patients underwent a sociodemographic and medical history interview and pulmonary function testing on the day of their asthma clinic visit, and completed a battery of questionnaires (Asthma Control Questionnaire, Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire, and Asthma Self-Efficacy Scale). General Linear Models assessed associations between SES and each morbidity measure.
Results
Lower SES was associated with worse asthma control (F = 11.63, p < .001), greater emergency health service use (F = 5.09, p = .024), and worse asthma self-efficacy (F = 12.04, p < .01), independent of covariates. Logistic regression analyses revealed that patients with <12 years of education were 55% more likely to report an asthma-related emergency health service visit in the last year (OR = 1.55, 95%CI = 1.05-2.27). Lower SES was not related to worse asthma-related quality of life.
Conclusions
Results suggest that lower SES (measured according to education level), is associated with several indices of worse asthma morbidity, particularly worse asthma control, in adult asthmatics independent of disease severity. Results are consistent with previous studies linking lower SES to worse asthma in children, and add asthma to the list of chronic diseases affected by individual-level SES.
doi:10.1186/1465-9921-10-125
PMCID: PMC2806364  PMID: 20017907
18.  Switching patients from other inhaled corticosteroid devices to the Easyhaler®: historical, matched-cohort study of real-life asthma patients 
Purpose
To investigate the clinical and cost effectiveness of switching real-life asthma patients from other types of inhalers to the Easyhaler® (EH) for the administration of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS).
Patients and methods
Historical, matched-cohort study of 1,958 asthma patients (children and adults) treated in UK primary-care practices, using data obtained from the Optimum Patient Care Research Database and Clinical Practice Research Datalink. Other inhalers (OH) included pressurized metered-dose inhalers, breath-actuated inhalers, and dry-powder inhalers, delivering beclomethasone, budesonide, fluticasone, or ciclesonide. Patients remaining on OH unchanged (same drug, dosage, and device; n=979) were matched 1:1 with those switched to the EH (beclomethasone or budesonide) at the same or lower ICS dosage (n=979), based on age, sex, year of index patient review/switch, most recent ICS drug, dosage, and device, and the number of severe exacerbations and average daily short-acting β2 agonist (SABA) dosage in the preceding year. Clinical outcomes and health care costs were compared between groups for 12 months before and after the switch. Co-primary clinical outcomes were: 1) risk domain asthma control (RDAC) – no asthma-related hospitalization, acute oral steroid use, or lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI); 2) exacerbation rate (American Thoracic Society [ATS] definition) – where exacerbation is asthma-related hospitalization or acute oral steroid use; 3) exacerbation rate (clinical definition) – where exacerbation is ATS exacerbation or LRTI; and 4) overall asthma control (OAC) – RDAC plus average salbutamol-equivalent SABA dosage ≤200 μg/day. Non-inferiority (at least equivalence) of EH was tested against OH for the four co-primary outcomes in order (hierarchical approach) by comparing the difference in proportions of patients [EH-OH] achieving asthma control or having no exacerbations in the outcome year, using a limit of 10% difference.
Results
Non-inferiority was shown for the EH for all four co-primary outcomes. There were no significant differences between groups for RDAC or exacerbation rates, but EH patients were significantly more likely to achieve OAC (adjusted odds ratio [95% confidence interval]: 1.26 [1.05, 1.52]), as significantly more EH than OH patients had an average SABA dosage of ≤200 μg/day (52% versus 47%, respectively; P<0.001). Mean asthma-related health care costs increased from baseline to outcome years in both groups, but SABA costs increased significantly more in OH than EH patients (mean difference £5.5/patient/year) and consultation costs decreased significantly more in EH than OH patients (mean difference £13.5/patient/year).
Conclusion
Typical asthma patients may be switched from other ICS devices to the Easyhaler® with no reduction in clinical effectiveness or increase in cost.
doi:10.2147/JAA.S59386
PMCID: PMC3986277  PMID: 24748807
asthma; ICS; inhaler; Easyhaler; cost
19.  Population based study of risk factors for underdiagnosis of asthma in adolescence: Odense schoolchild study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1998;316(7132):651-657.
Objective: To describe factors related to underdiagnosis of asthma in adolescence.
Design: Subgroup analysis in a population based cohort study.
Setting: Odense municipality, Denmark.
Subjects: 495 schoolchildren aged 12 to 15 years were selected from a cohort of 1369 children investigated 3 years earlier. Selection was done by randomisation (n=292) and by a history indicating allergy or asthma-like symptoms in subject or family (n=203).
Main outcome measures: Undiagnosed asthma defined as coexistence of asthma-like symptoms and one or more obstructive airway abnormalities (low ratio of forced expiratory volume in 1 second to forced vital capacity, hyperresponsiveness to methacholine or exercise, or peak flow hypervariability) in the absence of physician diagnosed asthma. Risk factors (odds ratios) for underdiagnosis.
Results: Undiagnosed asthma comprised about one third of all asthma identified. Underdiagnosis was independently associated with low physical activity, high body mass, serious family problems, passive smoking, and the absence of rhinitis. Girls were overrepresented among undiagnosed patients with asthma (69%) and underrepresented among diagnosed patients (33%). Among the risk factors identified, low physical activity and problems in the family were independently associated with female sex. The major symptom among those undiagnosed was cough (58%), whereas wheezing (35%) or breathing trouble (50%) was reported less frequently than among those diagnosed. Less than one third of those undiagnosed had reported their symptoms to a doctor.
Conclusions: Asthma, as defined by combined symptoms and test criteria, was seriously underdiagnosed among adolescents. Underdiagnosis was most prevalent among girls and was associated with a low tendency to report symptoms and with several independent risk factors that may help identification of previously undiagnosed asthmatic patients.
Key messages One third of young people with asthma are not diagnosed; most are girls Undiagnosed asthma is associated with low physical activity, high body mass index, serious family problems, passive smoking, and the absence of symptoms of rhinitis Cough is the most common symptom among those with undiagnosed asthma Two thirds of those with undiagnosed asthma do not report their symptoms to a doctor, suggesting a need for targeted asthma campaigns
PMCID: PMC28467  PMID: 9522784
20.  116 Genome-Wide Association Studies of Asthma Indicate Opposite Immunopathogenesis Direction From Autoimmune Diseases 
The World Allergy Organization Journal  2012;5(Suppl 2):S55-S56.
Background
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of asthma and asthma-related traits, including our previous TENOR study1, have consistently identified ORMDL3-GSDMB, IL33, IL1RL1-IL18R1, RAD50-IL13, TSLP-WDR36, and HLA-DR/DQ regions.2
Methods
In this study, GWAS of asthma was performed in non-Hispanic white population from STAMPEED study (813 cases and 1564 controls). Our GWAS results were compared with the published GWAS of asthma and autoimmune diseases (AD).
Results
Multiple SNPs in TNFAIP3 interacting protein 1 (TNIP1) on chromosome 5q32-q33.1 were associated with asthma in STAMPEED: rs1422673 (P = 3.44 × 10−7) and rs10036748 (P = 1.41 × 10−6). rs1422673 was weakly associated with asthma in the published GABRIEL study (P = 0.018 for meta-analysis)2 but not in the TENOR study (P = 0.18 but same trend).1 TNIP1 may interact with TNFAIP3 and inhibit TNFα-induced NFκB inflammation pathway. Joint analyses were performed on 6 SNPs in GSDMB (rs2872507), IL33 (rs3939286), IL1RL1 (rs13431828), IL13 (rs20541), TSLP (rs1837253), and HLA-DRA (rs2395185) in STAMPEED and TENOR populations, but only limited variance can be explained (percentage of deviance = 1.5–1.9%; the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) = 0.58–0.59). Minor allele T of rs20541 in IL13 is the risk allele for asthma but the protective allele for psoriasis. Minor allele A of rs2872507 in GSDMB is the protective allele for asthma but the risk allele for rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. T allele of rs10036748 in TNIP1 is the minor protective allele for asthma, but the minor or major risk allele for systemic lupus erythematosus in non-Hispanic white or Chinese population, respectively.
Conclusions
Our study provides genetic evidence that asthma and AD have opposite immunopathogenesis directions.
doi:10.1097/01.WOX.0000411861.60664.a3
PMCID: PMC3513027
21.  331 Asthma Management in Latin America: Learnings from the Latin America Asthma Insight and Management (LA AIM) Survey of Patients 
The World Allergy Organization Journal  2012;5(Suppl 2):S123-S124.
Background
In 2003, the Asthma Insights and Reality in Latin America (AIRLA) survey assessed, in part, perception, knowledge, and attitudes related to asthma.1 In 2011 the Latin America Asthma Insight and Management (LA AIM) survey was designed to ascertain the realities of living with asthma, disconnect between expectations in asthma management and patient experience, and unmet needs. Using results from our survey, we investigated the advances made in asthma care and the challenges that remain for Latin American patients with asthma.
Methods
Asthma patients aged ≥18 years from 4 Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela) and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico responded to survey questions during 35-minute face-to-face interviews. A sample size of 2000 patients (400 patients/location) provided an accurate national representation of the opinions of asthma patients. Questions probed respondents' views on topics such as patient-reported levels of asthma control, frequency and duration of exacerbations in the past year, and current and recent use of asthma medications. Participants in both surveys had a diagnosis of asthma, had taken asthma medication, or had an asthma attack within 12 months of the survey.
Results
Results from the LA AIM will be available November 2011. A total of 2184 adults or parents of children with asthma took part in AIRLA by phone or face-to-face interviews.1 In AIRLA, 54.0% of respondents reported their disease as well- or completely controlled. However, only 2.4% met all guideline criteria for asthma control. Further, 6% of AIRLA respondents reported their asthma as severe; however, when guideline criteria were applied, 21% had severe asthma.
Conclusions
The responses in LA AIM shed light on whether there have been meaningful changes since the 2003 AIRLA survey in patient perception of their asthma control and that control as defined by guideline criteria. Because asthma morbidity is largely preventable, additional education is required to teach patients that by more closely following asthma management strategies outlined by current guidelines, more patients can achieve adequate asthma control.
doi:10.1097/01.WOX.0000412094.11096.f5
PMCID: PMC3512921
22.  Electronic health record-based assessment of oral corticosteroid use in a population of primary care patients with asthma: an observational study 
Background
Oral corticosteroid prescriptions are often used in clinical studies as an indicator of asthma exacerbations. However, there is rarely the ability to link a prescription to its associated diagnosis. The objective of this study was to characterize patterns of oral corticosteroid prescription orders for asthma patients using an electronic health record database, which links each prescription order to the diagnosis assigned at the time the order was placed.
Methods
This was a retrospective cohort study of the electronic health records of asthma patients enrolled in the Geisinger Health System from January 1, 2001 to August 23, 2010. Eligible patients were 12–85 years old, had a primary care physician in the Geisinger Health System, and had asthma. Each oral corticosteroid order was classified as being prescribed for an asthma-related or non-asthma-related condition based on the associated diagnosis. Asthma-related oral corticosteroid use was classified as either chronic or acute. In patient-level analyses, we determined the number of asthma patients with asthma-related and non-asthma-related prescription orders and the number of patients with acute versus chronic use. Prescription-level analyses ascertained the percentages of oral corticosteroid prescription orders that were for asthma-related and non-asthma-related conditions.
Results
Among the 21,199 asthma patients identified in the electronic health record database, 15,017 (70.8%) had an oral corticosteroid prescription order. Many patients (N = 6,827; 45.5%) had prescription orders for both asthma-related and non-asthma-related conditions, but some had prescription orders exclusively for asthma-related (N = 3,450; 23.0%) or non-asthma-related conditions (N = 4,740; 31.6%). Among the patients receiving a prescription order, most (87.5%) could be classified as acute users. A total of 60,355 oral corticosteroid prescription orders were placed for the asthma patients in this study—31,397 (52.0%) for non-asthma-related conditions, 24,487 (40.6%) for asthma-related conditions, and 4,471 (7.4%) for both asthma-related and non-asthma-related conditions.
Conclusions
Oral corticosteroid prescriptions for asthma patients are frequently ordered for conditions unrelated to asthma. A prescription for oral corticosteroids may be an unreliable marker of asthma exacerbations in retrospective studies utilizing administrative claims data. Investigators should consider co-morbid conditions for which oral corticosteroid use may also be indicated and/or different criteria for assessing oral corticosteroid use for asthma.
doi:10.1186/1710-1492-9-27
PMCID: PMC3846655  PMID: 23924393
Oral corticosteroids; Asthma; Anti-asthmatic agents; Retrospective studies; Therapeutic use; Managed care programs; Cross-sectional studies
23.  Towards Excellence in Asthma Management: Final report of an eight-year program aimed at reducing care gaps in asthma management in Quebec 
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:
Asthma care in Canada and around the world persistently falls short of optimal treatment. To optimize care, a systematic approach to identifying such shortfalls or ‘care gaps’, in which all stakeholders of the health care system (including patients) are involved, was proposed.
METHODS:
Several projects of a multipartner, multidisciplinary disease management program, developed to optimize asthma care in Quebec, was conducted in a period of eight years. First, two population maps were produced to identify regional variations in asthma-related morbidity and to prioritize interventions for improving treatment. Second, current care was evaluated in a physician-patient cohort, confirming the many care gaps in asthma management. Third, two series of peer-reviewed outcome studies, targeting high-risk populations and specific asthma care gaps, were conducted. Finally, a process to integrate the best interventions into the health care system and an agenda for further research on optimal asthma management were proposed.
RESULTS:
Key observations from these studies included the identification of specific patterns of noncompliance in using inhaled corticosteroids, the failure of increased access to spirometry in asthma education centres to increase the number of education referrals, the transient improvement in educational abilities of nurses involved with an asthma hotline telephone service, and the beneficial effects of practice tools aimed at facilitating the assessment of asthma control and treatment needs by general practitioners.
CONCLUSIONS:
Disease management programs such as Towards Excellence in Asthma Management can provide valuable information on optimal strategies for improving treatment of asthma and other chronic diseases by identifying care gaps, improving guidelines implementation and optimizing care.
PMCID: PMC2679561  PMID: 18818784
Asthma; Asthma treatment; Continuing medical education; Disease management; Guidelines implementation; Knowledge transfer
24.  Multidisciplinary approach to management of maternal asthma (MAMMA [copyright]): the PROTOCOL for a randomized controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:1094.
Background
Uncontrolled asthma during pregnancy is associated with the maternal hazards of disease exacerbation, and perinatal hazards including intrauterine growth restriction and preterm birth. Interventions directed at achieving better asthma control during pregnancy should be considered a high priority in order to optimise both maternal and perinatal outcomes. Poor compliance with prescribed asthma medications during pregnancy and suboptimal prescribing patterns to pregnant women have both been shown to be contributing factors that jeopardise asthma control. The aim is to design and evaluate an intervention involving multidisciplinary care for women experiencing asthma in pregnancy.
Methods/design
A pilot single-blinded parallel-group randomized controlled trial testing a Multidisciplinary Approach to Management of Maternal Asthma (MAMMA©) which involves education and regular monitoring. Pregnant women with asthma will be recruited from antenatal clinics in Victoria, Australia. Recruited participants, stratified by disease severity, will be allocated to the intervention or the usual care group in a 1:1 ratio. Both groups will be followed prospectively throughout pregnancy and outcomes will be compared between groups at three and six months after recruitment to evaluate the effectiveness of this intervention. Outcome measures include Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ) scores, oral corticosteroid use, asthma exacerbations and asthma related hospital admissions, and days off work, preventer to reliever ratio, along with pregnancy and neonatal adverse events at delivery. The use of FEV1/FEV6 will be also investigated during this trial as a marker for asthma control.
Discussion
If successful, this model of care could be widely implemented in clinical practice and justify more funding for support services and resources for these women. This intervention will also promote awareness of the risks of poorly controlled asthma and the need for a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to asthma management during pregnancy. This is also the first study to investigate the use of FEV1/FEV6 as a marker for asthma control during pregnancy.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12612000681853)
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-1094
PMCID: PMC3536559  PMID: 23253481
Asthma; Pregnancy; Inhaled corticosteroids; Randomized controlled trial; Antenatal care; Intervention; Lung function tests; Multidisciplinary care
25.  Outcomes After Periodic Use of Inhaled Corticosteroids in Children 
Background
Many children with persistent asthma use inhaled corticosteroids on a periodic basis. Clinical trials in adults suggest that periodic use of inhaled corticosteroids may be effective for patients with mild persistent asthma. However, scant information exists on the clinical outcomes of children with asthma who are using inhaled corticosteroids on a periodic basis in real-world settings.
Objective
This prospective cohort study compared clinical outcomes during a 12-month follow-up period between children with persistent asthma whose parents believed that they were supposed to use inhaled steroids either (a) periodically or (b) daily year-round at the start of the period. The clinical outcomes studied were (1) asthma-related emergency department (ED) visits or hospitalizations, (2) uncontrolled asthma based on health care and medication use, and (3) outpatient visits for asthma.
Patients and methods
The study population included children with persistent asthma from two health plans whose parents reported that they were using inhaled corticosteroids during a baseline telephone interview. The interviews collected information on whether the children’s parents believed they were supposed to use inhaled corticosteroids on a periodic or daily basis, as well as baseline asthma symptom status, sociodemographic, and behavioral variables. We used computerized databases to identify clinical events for each child during the 12 months after their baseline interview. Uncontrolled asthma was defined as any asthma-related ED visit or hospitalization, two or more oral steroid prescription fills, or four or more beta-agonists canisters filled during the 12-month period. We compared these outcomes between the periodic versus daily users of inhaled corticosteroids using logistic regression analyses. We conducted both (1) a traditional logistic regression analysis in which we adjusted for selection bias by including covariates such as age, asthma physical status, sociodemographic and behavioral variables, and history of asthma-related health care use during the year before interview and (2) an analysis using propensity scores to more fully adjust for selection bias.
Results
Of a total of 476 children in the study, 55% of parents believed their children were supposed to be using inhaled corticosteroids on a periodic basis and 45% believed their children were supposed to be using them daily year-round based on the baseline parent interview. At baseline, periodic inhaled corticosteroid users had less severe asthma than daily users based on several measures including better asthma physical status scores on the Children’s Health Survey for Asthma (mean 87 ± 16.0 vs. 81 ± 17.4, p = < 0.0001). During the year before the baseline interview, periodic users compared with daily users were less likely to have an ED visit or hospitalization (10% vs. 23%, p = 0.0001) and less likely to have had five or more albuterol prescription fills (13% vs. 31%, p < 0.0001). During the follow-up year, those who believed inhaled steroids were for periodic use were less likely than those who believed inhaled steroids were for daily use to have an ED visit or hospitalization for asthma (OR 0.36, 95% CI: 0.18–0.73), even after adjusting for baseline asthma status and other covariates. Similarly, those who believed inhaled steroids were for periodic use were less likely to have uncontrolled asthma, OR 0.38 (95% CI: 0.24–0.62). Analyses using propensity score adjustment yielded similar results to the logistic regression analyses.
Conclusion
Children whose parents believed they were supposed to use inhaled corticosteroids on a periodic basis had less severe asthma at baseline than those whose parents believed they were supposed to be using them daily. Periodic users were less likely than daily users to have adverse asthma outcomes during 1-year follow-up. This suggests that clinicians may be applying appropriate selection criteria by choosing patients with less severe asthma for periodic inhaled corticosteroid regimens.
doi:10.1080/02770900802468517
PMCID: PMC4004094  PMID: 19544175
asthma; periodic inhaled corticosteroids; children

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