Medical Outcome in Asthmatic Patients: Effects of Airways Hyperreactivity and Symptom-Focused Anxiety

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Hypotheses about medical outcome in asthma, indexed by rates of rehospitalization within 6 months after discharge from long-term intensive care, were evaluated. Predictions for rehospitalization were based on the levels of airways hyperreactivity, indexed by inhalation challenges with histamine or methacholine, and levels of anxiety focused upon and concurrent with periods of asthmatic distress, indexed by Panic-Fear symptomatology. Results indicated that, although some prediction could be made on the basis of levels of anxiety and airways hyperreactivity alone, the best predictions resulted from the combined effects of these factors. Almost half of the patients who had highly hyperreactive airways and a tendency to disregard symptoms of breathing difficulty were rehospitalized. By comparison, none of the patients who had less hyperreactive airways and a tendency to be vigilant about their symptoms were rehospitalized. The hypotheses and results are discussed with respect to symptom-focused and general, illness-dependent types of anxiety which have different effects upon medical outcome in chronic asthma. The results have implications for the application of anxiety-reducing forms of intervention in asthma.

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