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August 9, 1993

Aminophylline in the Treatment of Acute Asthma When ß2-Adrenergics and Steroids Are Provided

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Emergency Medicine, Cook County Hospital (Drs Murphy, McDermott, Rydman, and Zalenski), the University of Illinois School of Public Health (Drs Murphy, Rydman, and Zalenski), and the Program in Emergency Medicine, University of Illinois College of Medicine (Drs Rydman and Sloan), Chicago.

Arch Intern Med. 1993;153(15):1784-1788. doi:10.1001/archinte.1993.00410150062006

Background:  The purpose of this study was to test the contribution of aminophylline in improving peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) during emergency department treatment of acute asthma when metaproterenol sulfate and steroid therapy are also provided.

Methods:  In a prospective, randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trial at a municipal hospital emergency department, 44 patients with acute asthma, aged 18 to 45 years, with theophylline levels below 28 μmol/L, who had failed to achieve a PEFR of 40% predicted after one nebulized metaproterenol treatment, were recruited. An aminophylline or placebo loading dose and maintenance infusion were administered. All patients received hourly nebulized metaproterenol and initial methylprednisolone sodium succinate. The PEFR was measured hourly for 5 hours. Two-factor repeated-measures analysis of variance of improvement in PEFR ([final—initial PEFR]/predicted PEFR) was assessed.

Results:  There was no difference in improvement of PEFR at any hour between the treatment and placebo groups. After 5 hours, the difference in improvement ratio was 0.40 (aminophylline) vs 0.36 (placebo) (P=.30; n=22 in each group). The treatment group suffered more tremor, nausea or vomiting, and palpitations (P<.05).

Conclusion:  In the emergency department setting, aminophylline contributes no significant improvement in PEFR when β2-agonists and corticosteroids are being provided, while causing more side effects.(Arch Intern Med. 1993;153:1784-1788)