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September 1955

Current methods of Diagnosis and Treatment of Asthma

Author Affiliations


From the Medical Service of the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Department of Medicine, Harvard University: Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Lecturer on Medicine, Harvard University (Dr. Burrage); Milton Research Fellow in Medicine, Harvard University, and Clinical and Research Fellow in Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (Dr. Mansmann); Clinical and Research Fellow in Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (Dr. Irwin).

AMA Arch Intern Med. 1955;96(3):369-374. doi:10.1001/archinte.1955.00250140091009

As long as the underlying mechanisms of asthma are not fully understood, differences of opinion in regard to diagnosis and therapy will continue to exist. At least two methods, however, have repeatedly failed and should be discarded. First, a festoon of pharmacological agents usually delays the etiological diagnosis and confounds therapeutics. Secondly, an unsympathetic approach to the patient can only lead to failure.

Too often a patient is seen with severe symptoms of asthma even though he is taking medication of such variety as to require a valise. Such drugs may include ephedrine, potassium iodide, epinephrine, aminophylline, barbiturates, meperidine (Demerol), vitamins, antibiotics, antihistamines, and even corticotropin and corticosteroids. With such a barrage one might anticipate obliteration of asthmatic symptoms, but such an injudicious combination fails.

Since asthma is a puzzling disease, certain unreasonable attitudes have developed. "Friends" and relatives are prone to regard the victim's symptoms as a shield against