IM vs oral steroid therapy for asthma

A recent study suggests that a single IM dose of steroid is equivalent as an 8-day tapering course of oral steroid in the setting of relapse rates from acute asthma attacks:

Objective: To compare the efficacy of long-acting IM methylprednisolone to tapering oral methylprednisolone in adult asthmatic patients discharged from the emergency department (ED).

Methods: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a single IM dose of 160 mg depot methylprednisolone vs 8-day tapering of a total dose of 160 mg oral methylprednisolone in adult asthmatic patients (age range, 18 to 45 years) who were discharged from the ED following standardized treatment for an acute exacerbation. The primary end point was relapse, which was defined as the need to seek unscheduled care at a doctorÂ’s office, clinic, or ED for symptoms of persistent or worsening asthma within 10 days of ED discharge.

Results: Of 190 patients enrolled into the study, 180 completed the study and the follow-up at 10 days (96%). The relapse rate was nearly identical for the two treatment groups (IM administration, 14.1% [13 of 92 patients]; oral administration, 13.6% [12 of 88 patients]; difference, 0.5% [95% confidence interval, – 9.6 to 10.6%]).

Conclusions: Single-dose IM methylprednisolone administered to adult asthmatic patients at ED discharge appears to be a viable therapeutic alternative to a course of oral methylprednisolone. Clinicians may choose to base the route of administration of corticosteroids on concerns about nonadherence to therapy or on the ability of a patient to afford a prescription for outpatient medication.

Certainly something to consider in those who may be non-compliant with a tapering course (which entails a significant amount of pills). It will be on the back of my mind when I moonlight in urgent care this Friday.

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