Patients with asthma have an increased risk of death from causes other than asthma. A study was undertaken to identify whether severity of asthma, its treatment, or associated comorbidity were associated with increased risk of death from other causes.Methods
Eighty five deaths from all causes occurring within three years of discharge from hospital in a cohort of 2242 subjects aged 16-64 years admitted for asthma were compared with a random sample of 61 controls aged <45 years and 61 aged >or= to 45 years from the same cohort.Results
Deaths from asthma were associated with a history of clinically severe asthma (OR 6.29 (95% CI 1.84 to 21.52)), chest pain (OR 3.78 (95% CI 1.06 to 13.5)), biochemical or haematological abnormalities at admission (OR 4.12 (95% CI 1.36 to 12.49)), prescription of ipratropium bromide (OR 4.04 (95% CI 1.47 to 11.13)), and failure to prescribe inhaled steroids on discharge (OR 3.45 (95% CI 1.35 to 9.10)). Deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were associated with lower peak expiratory flow rates (OR 2.56 (95% CI 1.52 to 4.35) for each 50 1/min change), a history of smoking (OR 5.03 (95% CI 1.17 to 21.58)), prescription of ipratropium bromide (OR 7.75 (95% CI 2.21 to 27.14)), and failure to prescribe inhaled steroids on discharge (OR 3.33 (95% CI 0.95 to 11.10)). Cardiovascular deaths were more common among those prescribed ipratropium bromide on discharge (OR 3.55 (95% CI 1.05 to 11.94)) and less likely in those admitted after an upper respiratory tract infection (OR 0.21 (95% CI 0.05 to 0.95)). Treatment with ipratropium bromide at discharge was associated with an increased risk of death from asthma even after adjusting for peak flow, COPD and cardiovascular co-morbidity, ever having smoked, and age at onset of asthma.Conclusions
Prescription of inhaled steroids on discharge is important even for those patients with co-existent COPD and asthma. Treatment with ipratropium at discharge is associated with increased risk of death from asthma even after adjustment for a range of markers of COPD. These results need to be tested in larger studies.