Metabolic acidosis as an underlying mechanism of respiratory distress in children with severe acute asthma

Kathleen L. Meert, Jeff Clark, Ashok P. Sarnaik

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23 Scopus citations

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: 1) To alert the clinician that increasing rate and depth of breathing during treatment of acute asthma may be a manifestation of metabolic acidosis with hyperventilation rather than worsening airway obstruction; and 2) to describe the frequency of metabolic acidosis with hyperventilation in children with severe acute asthma admitted to our pediatric intensive care unit. DESIGN: Retrospective medical record review. SETTING: University-affiliated children's hospital. PATIENTS: All patients admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit with a diagnosis of asthma between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2005. INTERVENTIONS: None. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Fifty-three patients with asthma (median age 7.8 yrs, range 0.7-17.9 yrs; 35 [66%] male; 46 [87%] black and 7 [13%] white) were admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit during the study period. Fifteen (28%) patients developed metabolic acidosis with hyperventilation (pH <7.35, Pco2 <35 torr [4.6 kPa], and base excess ≤-7 mmol/L) during their hospital course. Of these, lactic acid was assessed in four patients and was elevated in each; all had hyperglycemia (blood glucose >120 mg/dL [6.7 mmol/L]). Patients who developed metabolic acidosis with hyperventilation received asthma therapy similar to that received by patients who did not develop the disorder. Metabolic acidosis resolved contemporaneously with tapering of β2-adrenergic agonists and administration of supportive care. All patients survived. CONCLUSIONS: Metabolic acidosis with hyperventilation manifesting as respiratory distress can occur in children with severe acute asthma. A pathophysiologic rationale exists for the contribution of β2-adrenergic agents to the development of this acid-base disorder. Failure to recognize metabolic acidosis as the underlying mechanism of respiratory distress may lead to inappropriate intensification of bronchodilator therapy. Supportive care and tapering of β2-adrenergic agents are recommended to resolve this condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-523
Number of pages5
JournalPediatric Critical Care Medicine
Volume8
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2007

Keywords

  • Acidosis
  • Adolescent
  • Adrenergic β-agonists
  • Asthma
  • Child
  • Critical care
  • Hyperventilation
  • Infant
  • Preschool

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