Keeping score helps asthma suffers breathe a sigh of relief

June 10, 2011 By Quinn Phillips
Keeping score helps asthma suffers breathe a sigh of relief

(Medical Xpress) -- Seven per cent of adults and 14 per cent of Canadian children have a hard time breathing because of asthma. Brian Rowe, in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta, is working towards making life easier for both asthma patients and emergency physicians who treat them.

In a recent study, Rowe came up with a scoring system to help emergency doctors decide whether to keep a patient at the hospital or send them home.
“When they’re admitted they take a bed, so if there’s a way we can safely avoid them being admitted we’d like to try to do that,” said Rowe.

Appropriate treatment is a major part of the work being done by Rowe, who is associate dean clinical research. Rowe is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and is a Canada Research Chair in Emergency Airway Diseases.

In his most recent work, Rowe looked at presentations of asthma in the emergency department at 10 different sites across the country. His research group asked three important questions about patients who came in to the ER with asthma: age, the severity of the asthma attack and the medications they are on. From there they looked at the patients who were admitted and what factors caused them to have to stay in the hospital.

The group used that data to develop a scoring system for emergency physicians to help them decide if the patient stays or goes home.

Rowe found that the most relevant factor is the type of treatment the patient is on.

“If you’ve had no medication and we treat you in the emergency room you’ll respond and then you’ll go home,” said Rowe. “If you’ve got a lot of medications coming in and you require a lot of medications in the emergency department, then we should probably keep you.”

Two-year-old Matthew Doyle is one of the patients Rowe is trying to help keep out of hospital. He and his mother Sarah have spent their fair share of time at the hospital because of his asthma. Until they got him on the right treatment plan, they were visiting a health-care provider every six to eight weeks.

“It was as simple as walking outside and being in the pollen in the springtime or being exposed to snow mould in the air,” said Doyle. “Within an hour we were seeing wheezing.”

Since then, doctors have changed his treatment and Matthew and mom haven’t been back to the emergency room.

But with changing seasons, Doyle and Matthew could always end up back at the hospital and that is why she is thankful for the type of work Rowe and his group are doing, because anything that can speed up the process of treatment in the emergency room the better, not to mention improve the care given by emergency physicians.

The editorial board of the Canadian Respiratory Journal, which is where this work was published, was impressed by this work too; it named this study the most influential paper of the year.

“It’s nice for the team to win that award because it validates the work that we’re doing,” said Rowe. “Sometimes as a researcher you just work and you don’t know what impact things are having; it’s never easy, so my team was very pleased and I like to see them excited about the work.”

Explore further: Childhood asthma reduces chance of smoking in teen boys

Related Stories

Tobacco: Smoking gun for kids' asthma attacks

January 28, 2011

( -- Exposure to smokers is still a major cause of asthma attacks in kids, according to results of a poll released today by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. In Aug. ...

Amazing image: Kepler’s transiting exoplanets

March 30, 2011

Wow. This remarkable visualization shows every Kepler planetary candidate host star with its transiting companion in silhouette. Jason Rowe from the Kepler science team created the image, and the sizes of the stars and transiting ...

Recommended for you

New drug to fight fatal but neglected tropical disease

August 31, 2016

In a breakthrough for those infected by the parasites that cause sleeping sickness, a young Queensland researcher has identified a compound that kills the parasites in the lab without having any toxic effect on human cells.

Traces of Ebola virus linger longer than expected in semen

August 31, 2016

Initial data from a Liberian public health program show about 9 percent (38) of 429 male Ebola survivors had fragments of Ebola virus in their semen. Of those, 63 percent had semen samples that tested positive for Ebola fragments ...

Researchers discover a drug for a tropical disease

August 30, 2016

Researchers at the University of Georgia are working to find the fastest way possible to treat and cure human African trypanosomiasis, long referred to as sleeping sickness. By working to improve chemical entities already ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.