This Child’s Asthma Appears to Be Severe: But Where Actually Is the Severe Problem?
The aim of this manuscript is to outline an approach to severe asthma, which is among the most challenging problems faced by paediatric pulmonologists. A logical, protocolised approach is essential. The first step is to rule out alternative diagnoses. The next step is a multidisciplinary assessment. Severe, therapy resistant asthma (STRA) is rare, and most of those referred will improve if basic management is corrected, especially adherence to treatment. However some are unable or unwilling to make necessary changes (refractory asthma plus or refractory difficult asthma). Some, especially asthma in the obese, and those thought to have STRA, progress to bronchoscopic airway phenotyping and a parenteral steroid trial to determine an individualised treatment plan. Those with persistent eosinophilc airway inflammation should be considered for omalizumab, and mepolizumab. Pauci-inflammatory asthma remains a therapeutic challenge, with a paucity of evidence; increasing steroid therapy seems neither logical nor efficacious, but options include tiotropium and azithromycin. However the most important message to the paediatrician looking after a child with apprently severe asthma is that the answer is not uncritically escalating treatment, but finding the answer to the question, what is it about this child, and his/her environment, which means there is no response to what should be easily treated airway pathology? The answer usually requires input from a skilled and experienced multi-disciplinary team, without which management is unlikely to be succesful.
Conclusion. When managing a child with severe asthma, a detailed multi-disciplinary is essential to get the basic management right, before prescribing biologicals.
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