Observation units are effective for asthmatics

More than half of patients admitted to the hospital due to acute asthma could be treated just as effectively with an intensive treatment protocol in an observation unit, according to a study at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago and the University of Illinois.1

In the study, patients who met strict entry and discharge criteria spent up to 12 hours in an emergency diagnostic and treatment unit. Their care cost roughly half as much as inpatient care. Of those observation patients, 59% were discharged home, and 41% were admitted to the hospital. The subsequent relapse rate of the discharged patients was equivalent to those who received inpatient therapy. The observa -tion patients expressed greater satisfaction with care and higher quality of life in follow- up surveys.

"Patients with asthma with acute exacerbations . . . tend to respond better to shorter-term treatments provided in less restrictive environments," the authors concluded.


1. McDermott MF, Murphy DG, Zalenski RJ. A comparison between emergency diagnostic and treatment unit and inpatient care in the management of acute asthma. Arch Intern Med 1997; 157:2,055-2,062.