High-Dose Magnesium Sulfate Infusion for Severe Asthma in the Emergency Department: Efficacy Study*

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Abstract

Objective:

To assess the efficacy of a high-dose prolonged magnesium sulfate infusion in patients with severe, noninfectious–mediated asthma.

Design:

Prospective, randomized, open-label study.

Setting:

Twenty-nine–bed pediatric emergency department located in a children’s hospital in Asuncion, Paraguay.

Patients:

All patients of 6–16 years old who failed to improve after 2 hours of standard therapy for asthma.

Interventions:

Subjects were randomized to receive magnesium sulfate, 50 mg/kg over 1 hour (bolus) or high-dose prolonged magnesium sulfate infusion of 50 mg/kg/hr for 4 hours (max, 8.000 mg/4 hr). Patients were monitored for cardiorespiratory complications.

Measurements and Main Results:

Asthma severity was assessed via asthma scores and peak expiratory flow rates at 0-2-6 hours. The primary outcome was discharge to home at 24 hours. An analysis of the hospital length of stay and costs was a secondary outcome. Thirty-eight patients were enrolled, 19 in each group. The groups were of similar ages, past medical history of asthma, asthma score, and peak expiratory flow rate. There was a significant difference in the patients discharged at 24 hours: 47% in high-dose prolonged magnesium sulfate infusion (9/19) versus 10% (2/21) in the bolus group (p = 0.032) with an absolute risk reduction 37% (95% CI, 10–63) and a number needed to treat of 2.7 (95% CI, 1.6–9.5) to facilitate a discharge at or before 24 hours. The length of stay was shorter in the high-dose prolonged magnesium sulfate infusion group (mean ± SD in hr: high-dose prolonged magnesium sulfate infusion, 34.13 ± 19.54; bolus, 48.05 ± 18.72; p = 0.013; 95% CI, 1.3–26.5). The cost per patient in the high-dose prolonged magnesium sulfate infusion group was one third lower than the bolus group (mean ± SD: high-dose prolonged magnesium sulfate infusion, $603.16 ± 338.47; bolus, $834.37 ± 306.73; p < 0.016). There were no interventions or discontinuations of magnesium sulfate due to adverse events.

Conclusions:

The early utilization of high-dose prolonged magnesium sulfate infusion (50 mg/kg/hr/4 hr), for non-infectious mediated asthma, expedites discharges from the emergency department with significant reduction in healthcare cost.

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