A community-based study of near-fatal asthma

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology








Background: The purpose of this study was to describe the community-based impact of near-fatal asthma within the District of Columbia (Washington, DC). Methods: The design was a prospective cohort study. Subjects included all persons in 1993 who presented to Washington, DC hospitals alive, requiring intubation for respiratory failure (including subjects who subsequently died in the hospital). Washington, DC hospitals were contacted on a biweekly basis to identify subjects. Patients were contacted by mail, followed by an interview with the subject or proxy. Results: Of the 35 case subjects identified, 31 (88.6%) were interviewed. Sixty-one percent of the subjects were female; 84% were African-American; and 45.2% were less than 18 years old. Forty-five percent had asthma for 10 or more years. Twenty-three percent reported the emergency department as their usual source of health care, and 32% saw a provider on a weekly basis. Fifty-two percent were taking four or more prescription medications, and 29% were taking no anti-inflammatory medications. In the 24 hours before the event, 77% reported difficulty breathing, but only 64% reported contacting a health care provider. Conclusions: Community-based investigation of near-fatal asthma may lead to a better characterization of risk factors associated with this event. Findings from this study suggest that some of the factors associated with near-fatal events may be different from those associated with fatal asthma and that up to one third of the events may have been preventable.