Case Study: Managing Severe Asthma in an Adult

—he follows his treatment plan, but this 40-year-old male athlete has asthma that is not well-controlled. what’s the next step.

By Kirstin Bass, MD, PhD Reviewed by Michael E. Wechsler, MD, MMSc

This case presents a patient with poorly controlled asthma that remains refractory to treatment despite use of standard-of-care therapeutic options. For patients such as this, one needs to embark on an extensive work-up to confirm the diagnosis, assess for comorbidities, and finally, to consider different therapeutic options.


Case presentation and patient history

Mr. T is a 40-year-old recreational athlete with a medical history significant for asthma, for which he has been using an albuterol rescue inhaler approximately 3 times per week for the past year. During this time, he has also been waking up with asthma symptoms approximately twice a month, and has had three unscheduled asthma visits for mild flares. Based on the  National Asthma Education and Prevention Program guidelines , Mr. T has asthma that is not well controlled. 1

As a result of these symptoms, spirometry was performed revealing a forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1) of 78% predicted. Mr. T then was prescribed treatment with a low-dose corticosteroid, fluticasone 44 mcg at two puffs twice per day. However, he remained symptomatic and continued to use his rescue inhaler 3 times per week. Therefore, he was switched to a combination inhaled steroid and long-acting beta-agonist (LABA) (fluticasone propionate 250 mcg and salmeterol 50 mcg, one puff twice a day) by his primary care doctor.

Initial pulmonary assessment Even with this step up in his medication, Mr. T continued to be symptomatic and require rescue inhaler use. Therefore, he was referred to a pulmonologist, who performed the initial work-up shown here:

  • Spirometry, pre-albuterol: FEV1 79%, post-albuterol: 12% improvement
  • Methacholine challenge: PC 20 : 1.0 mg/mL
  • Chest X-ray: Within normal limits

Continued pulmonary assessment His dose of inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) and LABA was increased to fluticasone 500 mcg/salmeterol 50 mcg, one puff twice daily. However, he continued to have symptoms and returned to the pulmonologist for further work-up, shown here:

  • Chest computed tomography (CT): Normal lung parenchyma with no scarring or bronchiectasis
  • Sinus CT: Mild mucosal thickening
  • Complete blood count (CBC): Within normal limits, white blood cells (WBC) 10.0 K/mcL, 3% eosinophils
  • Immunoglobulin E (IgE): 25 IU/mL
  • Allergy-skin test: Positive for dust, trees
  • Exhaled NO: Fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) 53 parts per billion (pbb)

Assessment for comorbidities contributing to asthma symptoms After this work-up, tiotropium was added to his medication regimen. However, he remained symptomatic and had two more flares over the next 3 months. He was assessed for comorbid conditions that might be affecting his symptoms, and results showed:

  • Esophagram/barium swallow: Negative
  • Esophageal manometry: Negative
  • Esophageal impedance: Within normal limits
  • ECG: Within normal limits
  • Genetic testing: Negative for cystic fibrosis, alpha1 anti-trypsin deficiency

The ear, nose, and throat specialist to whom he was referred recommended only nasal inhaled steroids for his mild sinus disease and noted that he had a normal vocal cord evaluation.

Following this extensive work-up that transpired over the course of a year, Mr. T continued to have symptoms. He returned to the pulmonologist to discuss further treatment options for his refractory asthma.

Diagnosis Mr. T has refractory asthma. Work-up for this condition should include consideration of other causes for the symptoms, including allergies, gastroesophageal reflux disease, cardiac disease, sinus disease, vocal cord dysfunction, or genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or alpha1 antitrypsin deficiency, as was performed for Mr. T by his pulmonary team.

Treatment options When a patient has refractory asthma, treatment options to consider include anticholinergics (tiotropium, aclidinium), leukotriene modifiers (montelukast, zafirlukast), theophylline, anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody therapy with omalizumab, antibiotics, bronchial thermoplasty, or enrollment in a clinical trial evaluating the use of agents that modulate the cell signaling and immunologic responses seen in asthma.

Treatment outcome Mr. T underwent bronchial thermoplasty for his asthma. One year after the procedure, he reports feeling great. He has not taken systemic steroids for the past year, and his asthma remains controlled on a moderate dose of ICS and a LABA. He has also been able to resume exercising on a regular basis.

Approximately 10% to 15% of asthma patients have severe asthma refractory to the commonly available medications. 2  One key aspect of care for this patient population is a careful workup to exclude other comorbidities that could be contributing to their symptoms. Following this, there are several treatment options to consider, as in recent years there have been several advances in the development of asthma therapeutics. 2

Treatment options for refractory asthma There are a number of currently approved therapies for severe, refractory asthma. In addition to therapy with ICS or combination therapies with ICS and LABAs, leukotriene antagonists have good efficacy in asthma, especially in patients with prominent allergic or exercise symptoms. 2  The anticholinergics, such as tiotropium, which was approved for asthma in 2015, enhance bronchodilation and are useful adjuncts to ICS. 3-5  Omalizumab is a monoclonal antibody against IgE recommended for use in severe treatment-refractory allergic asthma in patients with atopy. 2  A nonmedication therapeutic option to consider is bronchial thermoplasty, a bronchoscopic procedure that uses thermal energy to disrupt bronchial smooth muscle. 6,7

Personalizing treatment for each patient It is important to personalize treatment based on individual characteristics or phenotypes that predict the patient's likely response to treatment, as well as the patient's preferences and practical issues, such as adherence and cost. 8

In this case, tiotropium had already been added to Mr. T's medications and his symptoms continued. Although addition of a leukotriene modifier was an option for him, he did not wish to add another medication to his care regimen. Omalizumab was not added partly for this reason, and also because of his low IgE level. As his bronchoscopy was negative, it was determined that a course of antibiotics would not be an effective treatment option for this patient. While vitamin D insufficiency has been associated with adverse outcomes in asthma, T's vitamin D level was tested and found to be sufficient.

We discussed the possibility of Mr. T's enrollment in a clinical trial. However, because this did not guarantee placement within a treatment arm and thus there was the possibility of receiving placebo, he opted to undergo bronchial thermoplasty.

Bronchial thermoplasty  Bronchial thermoplasty is effective for many patients with severe persistent asthma, such as Mr. T. This procedure may provide additional benefits to, but does not replace, standard asthma medications. During the procedure, thermal energy is delivered to the airways via a bronchoscope to reduce excess airway smooth muscle and limit its ability to constrict the airways. It is an outpatient procedure performed over three sessions by a trained physician. 9

The effects of bronchial thermoplasty have been studied in several trials. The first large-scale multicenter randomized controlled study was  the Asthma Intervention Research (AIR) Trial , which enrolled patients with moderate to severe asthma. 10  In this trial, patients who underwent the procedure had a significant improvement in asthma symptoms as measured by symptom-free days and scores on asthma control and quality of life questionnaires, as well as reductions in mild exacerbations and increases in morning peak expiratory flow. 10  Shortly after the AIR trial, the  Research in Severe Asthma (RISA) trial  was conducted to evaluate bronchial thermoplasty in patients with more severe, symptomatic asthma. 11  In this population, bronchial thermoplasty resulted in a transient worsening of asthma symptoms, with a higher rate of hospitalizations during the treatment period. 11  Hospitalization rate equalized between the treatment and control groups in the posttreatment period, however, and the treatment group showed significant improvements in rescue medication use, prebronchodilator forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1) % predicted, and asthma control questionnaire scores. 11

The AIR-2  trial followed, which was a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled study of 288 patients with severe asthma. 6  Similar to the RISA trial, patients in the treatment arm of this trial experienced an increase in adverse respiratory effects during the treatment period, the most common being airway irritation (including wheezing, chest discomfort, cough, and chest pain) and upper respiratory tract infections. 6

The majority of adverse effects occurred within 1 day of the procedure and resolved within 7 days. 6  In this study, bronchial thermoplasty was found to significantly improve quality of life, as well as reduce the rate of severe exacerbations by 32%. 6  Patients who underwent the procedure also reported fewer adverse respiratory effects, fewer days lost from work, school, or other activities due to asthma, and an 84% risk reduction in emergency department visits. 6

Long-term (5-year) follow-up studies have been conducted for patients in both  the AIR  and  the AIR-2  trials. In patients who underwent bronchial thermoplasty in either study, the rate of adverse respiratory effects remained stable in years 2 to 5 following the procedure, with no increase in hospitalizations or emergency department visits. 7,12  Additionally, FEV1 remained stable throughout the 5-year follow-up period. 7,12  This finding was maintained in patients enrolled in the AIR-2 trial despite decreased use of daily ICS. 7

Bronchial thermoplasty is an important addition to the asthma treatment armamentarium. 7  This treatment is currently approved for individuals with severe persistent asthma who remain uncontrolled despite the use of an ICS and LABA. Several clinical trials with long-term follow-up have now demonstrated its safety and ability to improve quality of life in patients with severe asthma, such as Mr. T.

Severe asthma can be a challenge to manage. Patients with this condition require an extensive workup, but there are several treatments currently available to help manage these patients, and new treatments are continuing to emerge. Managing severe asthma thus requires knowledge of the options available as well as consideration of a patient's personal situation-both in terms of disease phenotype and individual preference. In this case, the patient expressed a strong desire to not add any additional medications to his asthma regimen, which explained the rationale for choosing to treat with bronchial thermoplasty. Personalized treatment necessitates exploring which of the available or emerging options is best for each individual patient.

Published: April 16, 2018

  • 1. National Asthma Education and Prevention Program: Asthma Care Quick Reference.
  • 2. Olin JT, Wechsler ME. Asthma: pathogenesis and novel drugs for treatment. BMJ . 2014;349:g5517.
  • 3. Boehringer Ingelheim. Asthma: U.S. FDA approves new indication for SPIRIVA Respimat [press release]. September 16, 2015.
  • 4. Peters SP, Kunselman SJ, Icitovic N, et al. Tiotropium bromide step-up therapy for adults with uncontrolled asthma. N Engl J Med . 2010;363:1715-1726.
  • 5. Kerstjens HA, Engel M, Dahl R. Tiotropium in asthma poorly controlled with standard combination therapy. N Engl J Med . 2012;367:1198-1207.
  • 6. Castro M, Rubin AS, Laviolette M, et al. Effectiveness and safety of bronchial thermoplasty in the treatment of severe asthma: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled clinical trial. Am J Respir Crit Care Med . 2010;181:116-124.
  • 7. Wechsler ME, Laviolette M, Rubin AS, et al. Bronchial thermoplasty: long-term safety and effectiveness in patients with severe persistent asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol . 2013;132:1295-1302.
  • 8. Global Initiative for Asthma: Pocket Guide for Asthma Management and Prevention (for Adults and Children Older than 5 Years).
  • 10. Cox G, Thomson NC, Rubin AS, et al. Asthma control during the year after bronchial thermoplasty. N Engl J Med . 2007;356:1327-1337.
  • 11. Pavord ID, Cox G, Thomson NC, et al. Safety and efficacy of bronchial thermoplasty in symptomatic, severe asthma. Am J Respir Crit Care Med . 2007;176:1185-1191.
  • 12. Thomson NC, Rubin AS, Niven RM, et al. Long-term (5 year) safety of bronchial thermoplasty: Asthma Intervention Research (AIR) trial. BMC Pulm Med . 2011;11:8.

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  • Published: 16 October 2014

A woman with asthma: a whole systems approach to supporting self-management

  • Hilary Pinnock 1 ,
  • Elisabeth Ehrlich 1 ,
  • Gaylor Hoskins 2 &
  • Ron Tomlins 3  

npj Primary Care Respiratory Medicine volume  24 , Article number:  14063 ( 2014 ) Cite this article

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A 35-year-old lady attends for review of her asthma following an acute exacerbation. There is an extensive evidence base for supported self-management for people living with asthma, and international and national guidelines emphasise the importance of providing a written asthma action plan. Effective implementation of this recommendation for the lady in this case study is considered from the perspective of a patient, healthcare professional, and the organisation. The patient emphasises the importance of developing a partnership based on honesty and trust, the need for adherence to monitoring and regular treatment, and involvement of family support. The professional considers the provision of asthma self-management in the context of a structured review, with a focus on a self-management discussion which elicits the patient’s goals and preferences. The organisation has a crucial role in promoting, enabling and providing resources to support professionals to provide self-management. The patient’s asthma control was assessed and management optimised in two structured reviews. Her goal was to avoid disruption to her work and her personalised action plan focused on achieving that goal.

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A 35-year-old sales representative attends the practice for an asthma review. Her medical record notes that she has had asthma since childhood, and although for many months of the year her asthma is well controlled (when she often reduces or stops her inhaled steroids), she experiences one or two exacerbations a year requiring oral steroids. These are usually triggered by a viral upper respiratory infection, though last summer when the pollen count was particularly high she became tight chested and wheezy for a couple of weeks.

Her regular prescription is for fluticasone 100 mcg twice a day, and salbutamol as required. She has a young family and a busy lifestyle so does not often manage to find time to attend the asthma clinic. A few weeks previously, an asthma attack had interfered with some important work-related travel, and she has attended the clinic on this occasion to ask about how this can be managed better in the future. There is no record of her having been given an asthma action plan.

What do we know about asthma self-management? The academic perspective

Supported self-management reduces asthma morbidity.

The lady in this case study is struggling to maintain control of her asthma within the context of her busy professional and domestic life. The recent unfortunate experience which triggered this consultation offers a rare opportunity to engage with her and discuss how she can manage her asthma better. It behoves the clinician whom she is seeing (regardless of whether this is in a dedicated asthma clinic or an appointment in a routine general practice surgery) to grasp the opportunity and discuss self-management and provide her with a (written) personalised asthma action plan (PAAP).

The healthcare professional advising the lady is likely to be aware that international and national guidelines emphasise the importance of supporting self-management. 1 – 4 There is an extensive evidence base for asthma self-management: a recent synthesis identified 22 systematic reviews summarising data from 260 randomised controlled trials encompassing a broad range of demographic, clinical and healthcare contexts, which concluded that asthma self-management reduces emergency use of healthcare resources, including emergency department visits, hospital admissions and unscheduled consultations and improves markers of asthma control, including reduced symptoms and days off work, and improves quality of life. 1 , 2 , 5 – 12 Health economic analysis suggests that it is not only clinically effective, but also a cost-effective intervention. 13

Personalised asthma action plans

Key features of effective self-management approaches are:

Self-management education should be reinforced by provision of a (written) PAAP which reminds patients of their regular treatment, how to monitor and recognise that control is deteriorating and the action they should take. 14 – 16 As an adult, our patient can choose whether she wishes to monitor her control with symptoms or by recording peak flows (or a combination of both). 6 , 8 , 9 , 14 Symptom-based monitoring is generally better in children. 15 , 16

Plans should have between two and three action points including emergency doses of reliever medication; increasing low dose (or recommencing) inhaled steroids; or starting a course of oral steroids according to severity of the exacerbation. 14

Personalisation of the action plan is crucial. Focussing specifically on what actions she could take to prevent a repetition of the recent attack is likely to engage her interest. Not all patients will wish to start oral steroids without advice from a healthcare professional, though with her busy lifestyle and travel our patient is likely to be keen to have an emergency supply of prednisolone. Mobile technology has the potential to support self-management, 17 , 18 though a recent systematic review concluded that none of the currently available smart phone ‘apps’ were fit for purpose. 19

Identification and avoidance of her triggers is important. As pollen seems to be a trigger, management of allergic rhinitis needs to be discussed (and included in her action plan): she may benefit from regular use of a nasal steroid spray during the season. 20

Self-management as recommended by guidelines, 1 , 2 focuses narrowly on adherence to medication/monitoring and the early recognition/remediation of exacerbations, summarised in (written) PAAPs. Patients, however, may want to discuss how to reduce the impact of asthma on their life more generally, 21 including non-pharmacological approaches.

Supported self-management

The impact is greater if self-management education is delivered within a comprehensive programme of accessible, proactive asthma care, 22 and needs to be supported by ongoing regular review. 6 With her busy lifestyle, our patient may be reluctant to attend follow-up appointments, and once her asthma is controlled it may be possible to make convenient arrangements for professional review perhaps by telephone, 23 , 24 or e-mail. Flexible access to professional advice (e.g., utilising diverse modes of consultation) is an important component of supporting self-management. 25

The challenge of implementation

Implementation of self-management, however, remains poor in routine clinical practice. A recent Asthma UK web-survey estimated that only 24% of people with asthma in the UK currently have a PAAP, 26 with similar figures from Sweden 27 and Australia. 28 The general practitioner may feel that they do not have time to discuss self-management in a routine surgery appointment, or may not have a supply of paper-based PAAPs readily available. 29 However, as our patient rarely finds time to attend the practice, inviting her to make an appointment for a future clinic is likely to be unsuccessful and the opportunity to provide the help she needs will be missed.

The solution will need a whole systems approach

A systematic meta-review of implementing supported self-management in long-term conditions (including asthma) concluded that effective implementation was multifaceted and multidisciplinary; engaging patients, training and motivating professionals within the context of an organisation which actively supported self-management. 5 This whole systems approach considers that although patient education, professional training and organisational support are all essential components of successful support, they are rarely effective in isolation. 30 A systematic review of interventions that promote provision/use of PAAPs highlighted the importance of organisational systems (e.g., sending blank PAAPs with recall reminders). 31 A patient offers her perspective ( Box 1 ), a healthcare professional considers the clinical challenge, and the challenges are discussed from an organisational perspective.

Box 1: What self-management help should this lady expect from her general practitioner or asthma nurse? The patient’s perspective

The first priority is that the patient is reassured that her condition can be managed successfully both in the short and the long term. A good working relationship with the health professional is essential to achieve this outcome. Developing trust between patient and healthcare professional is more likely to lead to the patient following the PAAP on a long-term basis.

A review of all medication and possible alternative treatments should be discussed. The patient needs to understand why any changes are being made and when she can expect to see improvements in her condition. Be honest, as sometimes it will be necessary to adjust dosages before benefits are experienced. Be positive. ‘There are a number of things we can do to try to reduce the impact of asthma on your daily life’. ‘Preventer treatment can protect against the effect of pollen in the hay fever season’. If possible, the same healthcare professional should see the patient at all follow-up appointments as this builds trust and a feeling of working together to achieve the aim of better self-management.

Is the healthcare professional sure that the patient knows how to take her medication and that it is taken at the same time each day? The patient needs to understand the benefit of such a routine. Medication taken regularly at the same time each day is part of any self-management regime. If the patient is unused to taking medication at the same time each day then keeping a record on paper or with an electronic device could help. Possibly the patient could be encouraged to set up a system of reminders by text or smartphone.

Some people find having a peak flow meter useful. Knowing one's usual reading means that any fall can act as an early warning to put the PAAP into action. Patients need to be proactive here and take responsibility.

Ongoing support is essential for this patient to ensure that she takes her medication appropriately. Someone needs to be available to answer questions and provide encouragement. This could be a doctor or a nurse or a pharmacist. Again, this is an example of the partnership needed to achieve good asthma control.

It would also be useful at a future appointment to discuss the patient’s lifestyle and work with her to reduce her stress. Feeling better would allow her to take simple steps such as taking exercise. It would also be helpful if all members of her family understood how to help her. Even young children can do this.

From personal experience some people know how beneficial it is to feel they are in a partnership with their local practice and pharmacy. Being proactive produces dividends in asthma control.

What are the clinical challenges for the healthcare professional in providing self-management support?

Due to the variable nature of asthma, a long-standing history may mean that the frequency and severity of symptoms, as well as what triggers them, may have changed over time. 32 Exacerbations requiring oral steroids, interrupting periods of ‘stability’, indicate the need for re-assessment of the patient’s clinical as well as educational needs. The patient’s perception of stability may be at odds with the clinical definition 1 , 33 —a check on the number of short-acting bronchodilator inhalers the patient has used over a specific period of time is a good indication of control. 34 Assessment of asthma control should be carried out using objective tools such as the Asthma Control Test or the Royal College of Physicians three questions. 35 , 36 However, it is important to remember that these assessment tools are not an end in themselves but should be a springboard for further discussion on the nature and pattern of symptoms. Balancing work with family can often make it difficult to find the time to attend a review of asthma particularly when the patient feels well. The practice should consider utilising other means of communication to maintain contact with patients, encouraging them to come in when a problem is highlighted. 37 , 38 Asthma guidelines advocate a structured approach to ensure the patient is reviewed regularly and recommend a detailed assessment to enable development of an appropriate patient-centred (self)management strategy. 1 – 4

Although self-management plans have been shown to be successful for reducing the impact of asthma, 21 , 39 the complexity of managing such a fluctuating disease on a day-to-day basis is challenging. During an asthma review, there is an opportunity to work with the patient to try to identify what triggers their symptoms and any actions that may help improve or maintain control. 38 An integral part of personalised self-management education is the written PAAP, which gives the patient the knowledge to respond to the changes in symptoms and ensures they maintain control of their asthma within predetermined parameters. 9 , 40 The PAAP should include details on how to monitor asthma, recognise symptoms, how to alter medication and what to do if the symptoms do not improve. The plan should include details on the treatment to be taken when asthma is well controlled, and how to adjust it when the symptoms are mild, moderate or severe. These action plans need to be developed between the doctor, nurse or asthma educator and the patient during the review and should be frequently reviewed and updated in partnership (see Box 1). Patient preference as well as clinical features such as whether she under- or over-perceives her symptoms should be taken into account when deciding whether the action plan is peak flow or symptom-driven. Our patient has a lot to gain from having an action plan. She has poorly controlled asthma and her lifestyle means that she will probably see different doctors (depending who is available) when she needs help. Being empowered to self-manage could make a big difference to her asthma control and the impact it has on her life.

The practice should have protocols in place, underpinned by specific training to support asthma self-management. As well as ensuring that healthcare professionals have appropriate skills, this should include training for reception staff so that they know what action to take if a patient telephones to say they are having an asthma attack.

However, focusing solely on symptom management strategies (actions) to follow in the presence of deteriorating symptoms fails to incorporate the patients’ wider views of asthma, its management within the context of her/his life, and their personal asthma management strategies. 41 This may result in a failure to use plans to maximise their health potential. 21 , 42 A self-management strategy leading to improved outcomes requires a high level of patient self-efficacy, 43 a meaningful partnership between the patient and the supporting health professional, 42 , 44 and a focused self-management discussion. 14

Central to both the effectiveness and personalisation of action plans, 43 , 45 in particular the likelihood that the plan will lead to changes in patients’ day-to-day self-management behaviours, 45 is the identification of goals. Goals are more likely to be achieved when they are specific, important to patients, collaboratively set and there is a belief that these can be achieved. Success depends on motivation 44 , 46 to engage in a specific behaviour to achieve a valued outcome (goal) and the ability to translate the behavioural intention into action. 47 Action and coping planning increases the likelihood that patient behaviour will actually change. 44 , 46 , 47 Our patient has a goal: she wants to avoid having her work disrupted by her asthma. Her personalised action plan needs to explicitly focus on achieving that goal.

As providers of self-management support, health professionals must work with patients to identify goals (valued outcomes) that are important to patients, that may be achievable and with which they can engage. The identification of specific, personalised goals and associated feasible behaviours is a prerequisite for the creation of asthma self-management plans. Divergent perceptions of asthma and how to manage it, and a mismatch between what patients want/need from these plans and what is provided by professionals are barriers to success. 41 , 42

What are the challenges for the healthcare organisation in providing self-management support?

A number of studies have demonstrated the challenges for primary care physicians in providing ongoing support for people with asthma. 31 , 48 , 49 In some countries, nurses and other allied health professionals have been trained as asthma educators and monitor people with stable asthma. These resources are not always available. In addition, some primary care services are delivered in constrained systems where only a few minutes are available to the practitioner in a consultation, or where only a limited range of asthma medicines are available or affordable. 50

There is recognition that the delivery of quality care depends on the competence of the doctor (and supporting health professionals), the relationship between the care providers and care recipients, and the quality of the environment in which care is delivered. 51 This includes societal expectations, health literacy and financial drivers.

In 2001, the Australian Government adopted a programme developed by the General Practitioner Asthma Group of the National Asthma Council Australia that provided a structured approach to the implementation of asthma management guidelines in a primary care setting. 52 Patients with moderate-to-severe asthma were eligible to participate. The 3+ visit plan required confirmation of asthma diagnosis, spirometry if appropriate, assessment of trigger factors, consideration of medication and patient self-management education including provision of a written PAAP. These elements, including regular medical review, were delivered over three visits. Evaluation demonstrated that the programme was beneficial but that it was difficult to complete the third visit in the programme. 53 – 55 Accordingly, the programme, renamed the Asthma Cycle of Care, was modified to incorporate two visits. 56 Financial incentives are provided to practices for each patient who receives this service each year.

Concurrently, other programmes were implemented which support practice-based care. Since 2002, the National Asthma Council has provided best-practice asthma and respiratory management education to health professionals, 57 and this programme will be continuing to 2017. The general practitioner and allied health professional trainers travel the country to provide asthma and COPD updates to groups of doctors, nurses and community pharmacists. A number of online modules are also provided. The PACE (Physician Asthma Care Education) programme developed by Noreen Clark has also been adapted to the Australian healthcare system. 58 In addition, a pharmacy-based intervention has been trialled and implemented. 59

To support these programmes, the National Asthma Council ( ) has developed resources for use in practices. A strong emphasis has been on the availability of a range of PAAPs (including plans for using adjustable maintenance dosing with ICS/LABA combination inhalers), plans for indigenous Australians, paediatric plans and plans translated into nine languages. PAAPs embedded in practice computer systems are readily available in consultations, and there are easily accessible online paediatric PAAPs ( ). A software package, developed in the UK, can be downloaded and used to generate a pictorial PAAP within the consultation. 60

One of the strongest drivers towards the provision of written asthma action plans in Australia has been the Asthma Friendly Schools programme. 61 , 62 Established with Australian Government funding and the co-operation of Education Departments of each state, the Asthma Friendly Schools programme engages schools to address and satisfy a set of criteria that establishes an asthma-friendly environment. As part of accreditation, the school requires that each child with asthma should have a written PAAP prepared by their doctor to assist (trained) staff in managing a child with asthma at school.

The case study continues...

The initial presentation some weeks ago was during an exacerbation of asthma, which may not be the best time to educate a patient. It is, however, a splendid time to build on their motivation to feel better. She agreed to return after her asthma had settled to look more closely at her asthma control, and an appointment was made for a routine review.

At this follow-up consultation, the patient’s diagnosis was reviewed and confirmed and her trigger factors discussed. For this lady, respiratory tract infections are the usual trigger but allergic factors during times of high pollen count may also be relevant. Assessment of her nasal airway suggested that she would benefit from better control of allergic rhinitis. Other factors were discussed, as many patients are unaware that changes in air temperature, exercise and pets can also trigger asthma exacerbations. In addition, use of the Asthma Control Test was useful as an objective assessment of control as well as helping her realise what her life could be like! Many people with long-term asthma live their life within the constraints of their illness, accepting that is all that they can do.

After assessing the level of asthma control, a discussion about management options—trigger avoidance, exercise and medicines—led to the development of a written PAAP. Asthma can affect the whole family, and ways were explored that could help her family understand why it is important that she finds time in the busy domestic schedules to take her regular medication. Family and friends can also help by understanding what triggers her asthma so that they can avoid exposing her to perfumes, pollens or pets that risk triggering her symptoms. Information from the national patient organisation was provided to reinforce the messages.

The patient agreed to return in a couple of weeks, and a recall reminder was set up. At the second consultation, the level of control since the last visit will be explored including repeat spirometry, if appropriate. Further education about the pathophysiology of asthma and how to recognise early warning signs of loss of control can be given. Device use will be reassessed and the PAAP reviewed. Our patient’s goal is to avoid disruption to her work and her PAAP will focus on achieving that goal. Finally, agreement will be reached with the patient about future routine reviews, which, now that she has a written PAAP, could be scheduled by telephone if all is well, or face-to-face if a change in her clinical condition necessitates a more comprehensive review.

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Global Initiative for Asthma – GINA

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What’s New in 2023 — Slide Set

PowerPoint slide set summarizing GINA’s objectives, documents, and management recommendations from the 2023 update of the GINA Report, with background information about asthma and the burden of this disease.

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2022 GINA Difficult-to-treat & Severe Asthma Guide — Slide Set COVID-19 — Slide Set

What is known about asthma?

Asthma is a common and potentially serious chronic disease that imposes a substantial burden on patients, their families and the community. It causes respiratory symptoms, limitation of activity, and flare-ups (attacks) that sometimes require urgent health care and may be fatal.

Fortunately… asthma can be effectively treated and most patients can achieve good control of their asthma. When asthma is under good control, patients can:

  • Avoid troublesome symptoms during day and night
  • Need little or no reliever medication
  • Have productive, physically active lives
  • Have normal or near normal lung function
  • Avoid serious asthma flare-ups (exacerbations, or attacks)

What is asthma? Asthma causes symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and cough that vary over time in their occurrence, frequency and intensity.

These symptoms are associated with variable expiratory airflow, i.e., difficulty breathing air out of the lungs due to bronchoconstriction (airway narrowing), airway wall thickening, and increased mucus. Some variation in airflow can also occur in people without asthma, but it is greater in asthma.

Factors that may trigger or worsen asthma symptoms include viral infections, domestic or occupational allergens (e.g., house dust mite, pollens, cockroach), tobacco smoke, exercise and stress. These responses are more likely when asthma is uncontrolled. Some drugs can induce or trigger asthma, e.g., beta-blockers, and (in some patients) aspirin or other NSAIDs.

Asthma flare-ups (also called exacerbations or attacks) may occur, even in people taking asthma treatment. When asthma is uncontrolled, or in some high-risk patients, these episodes are more frequent and more severe, and may be fatal.

A stepwise approach to treatment takes into account the effectiveness of available medications, their safety, and their cost to the payer or patient.

Regular controller treatment , particularly with inhaled corticosteroid (ICS)-containing medications, markedly reduces the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms and the risk of having a flare-up.

Asthma is a common condition, affecting all levels of society. Olympic athletes, famous leaders and celebrities, and ordinary people live successful and active lives with asthma .

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StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-.

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Case study: 33-year-old female presents with chronic sob and cough.

Sandeep Sharma ; Muhammad F. Hashmi ; Deepa Rawat .


Last Update: February 20, 2023 .

  • Case Presentation

History of Present Illness:  A 33-year-old white female presents after admission to the general medical/surgical hospital ward with a chief complaint of shortness of breath on exertion. She reports that she was seen for similar symptoms previously at her primary care physician’s office six months ago. At that time, she was diagnosed with acute bronchitis and treated with bronchodilators, empiric antibiotics, and a short course oral steroid taper. This management did not improve her symptoms, and she has gradually worsened over six months. She reports a 20-pound (9 kg) intentional weight loss over the past year. She denies camping, spelunking, or hunting activities. She denies any sick contacts. A brief review of systems is negative for fever, night sweats, palpitations, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, neural sensation changes, muscular changes, and increased bruising or bleeding. She admits a cough, shortness of breath, and shortness of breath on exertion.

Social History: Her tobacco use is 33 pack-years; however, she quit smoking shortly prior to the onset of symptoms, six months ago. She denies alcohol and illicit drug use. She is in a married, monogamous relationship and has three children aged 15 months to 5 years. She is employed in a cookie bakery. She has two pet doves. She traveled to Mexico for a one-week vacation one year ago.

Allergies:  No known medicine, food, or environmental allergies.

Past Medical History: Hypertension

Past Surgical History: Cholecystectomy

Medications: Lisinopril 10 mg by mouth every day

Physical Exam:

Vitals: Temperature, 97.8 F; heart rate 88; respiratory rate, 22; blood pressure 130/86; body mass index, 28

General: She is well appearing but anxious, a pleasant female lying on a hospital stretcher. She is conversing freely, with respiratory distress causing her to stop mid-sentence.

Respiratory: She has diffuse rales and mild wheezing; tachypneic.

Cardiovascular: She has a regular rate and rhythm with no murmurs, rubs, or gallops.

Gastrointestinal: Bowel sounds X4. No bruits or pulsatile mass.

  • Initial Evaluation

Laboratory Studies:  Initial work-up from the emergency department revealed pancytopenia with a platelet count of 74,000 per mm3; hemoglobin, 8.3 g per and mild transaminase elevation, AST 90 and ALT 112. Blood cultures were drawn and currently negative for bacterial growth or Gram staining.

Chest X-ray

Impression:  Mild interstitial pneumonitis

  • Differential Diagnosis
  • Aspiration pneumonitis and pneumonia
  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Immunodeficiency state and Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia
  • Carcinoid lung tumors
  • Tuberculosis
  • Viral pneumonia
  • Chlamydial pneumonia
  • Coccidioidomycosis and valley fever
  • Recurrent Legionella pneumonia
  • Mediastinal cysts
  • Mediastinal lymphoma
  • Recurrent mycoplasma infection
  • Pancoast syndrome
  • Pneumococcal infection
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Small cell lung cancer
  • Aspergillosis
  • Blastomycosis
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Actinomycosis
  • Confirmatory Evaluation

CT of the chest was performed to further the pulmonary diagnosis; it showed a diffuse centrilobular micronodular pattern without focal consolidation.

On finding pulmonary consolidation on the CT of the chest, a pulmonary consultation was obtained. Further history was taken, which revealed that she has two pet doves. As this was her third day of broad-spectrum antibiotics for a bacterial infection and she was not getting better, it was decided to perform diagnostic bronchoscopy of the lungs with bronchoalveolar lavage to look for any atypical or rare infections and to rule out malignancy (Image 1).

Bronchoalveolar lavage returned with a fluid that was cloudy and muddy in appearance. There was no bleeding. Cytology showed Histoplasma capsulatum .

Based on the bronchoscopic findings, a diagnosis of acute pulmonary histoplasmosis in an immunocompetent patient was made.

Pulmonary histoplasmosis in asymptomatic patients is self-resolving and requires no treatment. However, once symptoms develop, such as in our above patient, a decision to treat needs to be made. In mild, tolerable cases, no treatment other than close monitoring is necessary. However, once symptoms progress to moderate or severe, or if they are prolonged for greater than four weeks, treatment with itraconazole is indicated. The anticipated duration is 6 to 12 weeks total. The response should be monitored with a chest x-ray. Furthermore, observation for recurrence is necessary for several years following the diagnosis. If the illness is determined to be severe or does not respond to itraconazole, amphotericin B should be initiated for a minimum of 2 weeks, but up to 1 year. Cotreatment with methylprednisolone is indicated to improve pulmonary compliance and reduce inflammation, thus improving work of respiration. [1] [2] [3]

Histoplasmosis, also known as Darling disease, Ohio valley disease, reticuloendotheliosis, caver's disease, and spelunker's lung, is a disease caused by the dimorphic fungi  Histoplasma capsulatum native to the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi River valleys of the United States. The two phases of Histoplasma are the mycelial phase and the yeast phase.


Histoplasmosis is caused by inhaling the microconidia of  Histoplasma  spp. fungus into the lungs. The mycelial phase is present at ambient temperature in the environment, and upon exposure to 37 C, such as in a host’s lungs, it changes into budding yeast cells. This transition is an important determinant in the establishment of infection. Inhalation from soil is a major route of transmission leading to infection. Human-to-human transmission has not been reported. Infected individuals may harbor many yeast-forming colonies chronically, which remain viable for years after initial inoculation. The finding that individuals who have moved or traveled from endemic to non-endemic areas may exhibit a reactivated infection after many months to years supports this long-term viability. However, the precise mechanism of reactivation in chronic carriers remains unknown.

Infection ranges from an asymptomatic illness to a life-threatening disease, depending on the host’s immunological status, fungal inoculum size, and other factors. Histoplasma  spp. have grown particularly well in organic matter enriched with bird or bat excrement, leading to the association that spelunking in bat-feces-rich caves increases the risk of infection. Likewise, ownership of pet birds increases the rate of inoculation. In our case, the patient did travel outside of Nebraska within the last year and owned two birds; these are her primary increased risk factors. [4]

Non-immunocompromised patients present with a self-limited respiratory infection. However, the infection in immunocompromised hosts disseminated histoplasmosis progresses very aggressively. Within a few days, histoplasmosis can reach a fatality rate of 100% if not treated aggressively and appropriately. Pulmonary histoplasmosis may progress to a systemic infection. Like its pulmonary counterpart, the disseminated infection is related to exposure to soil containing infectious yeast. The disseminated disease progresses more slowly in immunocompetent hosts compared to immunocompromised hosts. However, if the infection is not treated, fatality rates are similar. The pathophysiology for disseminated disease is that once inhaled, Histoplasma yeast are ingested by macrophages. The macrophages travel into the lymphatic system where the disease, if not contained, spreads to different organs in a linear fashion following the lymphatic system and ultimately into the systemic circulation. Once this occurs, a full spectrum of disease is possible. Inside the macrophage, this fungus is contained in a phagosome. It requires thiamine for continued development and growth and will consume systemic thiamine. In immunocompetent hosts, strong cellular immunity, including macrophages, epithelial, and lymphocytes, surround the yeast buds to keep infection localized. Eventually, it will become calcified as granulomatous tissue. In immunocompromised hosts, the organisms disseminate to the reticuloendothelial system, leading to progressive disseminated histoplasmosis. [5] [6]

Symptoms of infection typically begin to show within three to17 days. Immunocompetent individuals often have clinically silent manifestations with no apparent ill effects. The acute phase of infection presents as nonspecific respiratory symptoms, including cough and flu. A chest x-ray is read as normal in 40% to 70% of cases. Chronic infection can resemble tuberculosis with granulomatous changes or cavitation. The disseminated illness can lead to hepatosplenomegaly, adrenal enlargement, and lymphadenopathy. The infected sites usually calcify as they heal. Histoplasmosis is one of the most common causes of mediastinitis. Presentation of the disease may vary as any other organ in the body may be affected by the disseminated infection. [7]

The clinical presentation of the disease has a wide-spectrum presentation which makes diagnosis difficult. The mild pulmonary illness may appear as a flu-like illness. The severe form includes chronic pulmonary manifestation, which may occur in the presence of underlying lung disease. The disseminated form is characterized by the spread of the organism to extrapulmonary sites with proportional findings on imaging or laboratory studies. The Gold standard for establishing the diagnosis of histoplasmosis is through culturing the organism. However, diagnosis can be established by histological analysis of samples containing the organism taken from infected organs. It can be diagnosed by antigen detection in blood or urine, PCR, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The diagnosis also can be made by testing for antibodies again the fungus. [8]

Pulmonary histoplasmosis in asymptomatic patients is self-resolving and requires no treatment. However, once symptoms develop, such as in our above patient, a decision to treat needs to be made. In mild, tolerable cases, no treatment other than close monitoring is necessary. However, once symptoms progress to moderate or severe or if they are prolonged for greater than four weeks, treatment with itraconazole is indicated. The anticipated duration is 6 to 12 weeks. The patient's response should be monitored with a chest x-ray. Furthermore, observation for recurrence is necessary for several years following the diagnosis. If the illness is determined to be severe or does not respond to itraconazole, amphotericin B should be initiated for a minimum of 2 weeks, but up to 1 year. Cotreatment with methylprednisolone is indicated to improve pulmonary compliance and reduce inflammation, thus improving the work of respiration.

The disseminated disease requires similar systemic antifungal therapy to pulmonary infection. Additionally, procedural intervention may be necessary, depending on the site of dissemination, to include thoracentesis, pericardiocentesis, or abdominocentesis. Ocular involvement requires steroid treatment additions and necessitates ophthalmology consultation. In pericarditis patients, antifungals are contraindicated because the subsequent inflammatory reaction from therapy would worsen pericarditis.

Patients may necessitate intensive care unit placement dependent on their respiratory status, as they may pose a risk for rapid decompensation. Should this occur, respiratory support is necessary, including non-invasive BiPAP or invasive mechanical intubation. Surgical interventions are rarely warranted; however, bronchoscopy is useful as both a diagnostic measure to collect sputum samples from the lung and therapeutic to clear excess secretions from the alveoli. Patients are at risk for developing a coexistent bacterial infection, and appropriate antibiotics should be considered after 2 to 4 months of known infection if symptoms are still present. [9]


If not treated appropriately and in a timely fashion, the disease can be fatal, and complications will arise, such as recurrent pneumonia leading to respiratory failure, superior vena cava syndrome, fibrosing mediastinitis, pulmonary vessel obstruction leading to pulmonary hypertension and right-sided heart failure, and progressive fibrosis of lymph nodes. Acute pulmonary histoplasmosis usually has a good outcome on symptomatic therapy alone, with 90% of patients being asymptomatic. Disseminated histoplasmosis, if untreated, results in death within 2 to 24 months. Overall, there is a relapse rate of 50% in acute disseminated histoplasmosis. In chronic treatment, however, this relapse rate decreases to 10% to 20%. Death is imminent without treatment.

  • Pearls of Wisdom

While illnesses such as pneumonia are more prevalent, it is important to keep in mind that more rare diseases are always possible. Keeping in mind that every infiltrates on a chest X-ray or chest CT is not guaranteed to be simple pneumonia. Key information to remember is that if the patient is not improving under optimal therapy for a condition, the working diagnosis is either wrong or the treatment modality chosen by the physician is wrong and should be adjusted. When this occurs, it is essential to collect a more detailed history and refer the patient for appropriate consultation with a pulmonologist or infectious disease specialist. Doing so, in this case, yielded workup with bronchoalveolar lavage and microscopic evaluation. Microscopy is invaluable for definitively diagnosing a pulmonary consolidation as exemplified here where the results showed small, budding, intracellular yeast in tissue sized 2 to 5 microns that were readily apparent on hematoxylin and eosin staining and minimal, normal flora bacterial growth. 

  • Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

This case demonstrates how all interprofessional healthcare team members need to be involved in arriving at a correct diagnosis. Clinicians, specialists, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians all bear responsibility for carrying out the duties pertaining to their particular discipline and sharing any findings with all team members. An incorrect diagnosis will almost inevitably lead to incorrect treatment, so coordinated activity, open communication, and empowerment to voice concerns are all part of the dynamic that needs to drive such cases so patients will attain the best possible outcomes.

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Histoplasma Contributed by Sandeep Sharma, MD

Disclosure: Sandeep Sharma declares no relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies.

Disclosure: Muhammad Hashmi declares no relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies.

Disclosure: Deepa Rawat declares no relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies.

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  • Cite this Page Sharma S, Hashmi MF, Rawat D. Case Study: 33-Year-Old Female Presents with Chronic SOB and Cough. [Updated 2023 Feb 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-.

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asthma case study

Asthma Case Study

Aug 23, 2014

500 likes | 1.15k Views

Asthma Case Study. Group 7. Courtney Ramsey Jennifer Martin Lisa G. Castro Ning Huang Stella Cooremans - Pena Rosimeire Sawyer. An Asthma Attack. Background. Jenny, 14 yr old female Spent the night at a friends house Exposures: Friends father smokes Current Medications:

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  • smooth muscle hyperplasia
  • normal value
  • nonproductive cough
  • smokingcan trigger asthma attacks
  • th2 cells secrete cytokines


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Asthma Case Study Group 7 Courtney Ramsey Jennifer Martin Lisa G. Castro Ning Huang Stella Cooremans-Pena Rosimeire Sawyer

An Asthma Attack

Background • Jenny, 14 yr old female • Spent the night at a friends house • Exposures: • Friends father smokes • Current Medications: • Fluticasone inhaler BID • Albuterol HFA PRN • Allergies: Sulfa (rash)

Patient Histories • Past Medical History • Asthma: • Well controlled • Diagnosed at age 10 • Sinusitis: • Gets 2-3 times per year • Past Surgical History • None • Social History • Lives at home with parents • No regular exposure to 2ndhand smoke • Family History • Grandfather: COPD • Secondary to smoking • No longer smokes

November 7, 2013 • Patient presented to an emergency walk in clinic in the middle of the night • Chief complaint: • “I’m having trouble breathing” • Physical Exam: • Neuro: Anxious, Difficulty Speaking, PERRLA • CV: Tachycardia, no murmur • Resp: Bilateral high-pitched, diffuse expiratory wheezing • Using accessory muscle • Moderate resp. distress • GI/GU/Oral: Mild Oral Thrush • All other systems normal • Vital Signs: • Temp: 36 C • HR 110 BP 124/70 • Pulse Ox : 88% on Room Air • Precipitating Events: • Patient had spent the night at a friends house • Recent exposure to 2nd hand smoke • Woke up with severe SOB and nonproductive cough • Did not have her bronchodilator medication with her

Analyze the pathophysiology of asthma and relate it to the category of obstructive vs. restrictive pulmonary disorder. Question 1

Obstructive vs. Restrictive Pulmonary Disease

Pathophysiology of Asthma Genetic predisposition to type 1 hypersensitivity Exposure to environmental triggers (second hand smoke)

Pathophysiology of Asthma Inhaled allergen simulates induction of TH2 cells. Kumar (2010) et al: Fig 6-11, p195

Pathophysiology of Asthma • TH2 cells secrete cytokines that promote allergic inflammation and stimulate B cells to produce IgE and other antibodies.

Pathophysiology of Asthma Priming or sensitization

Pathophysiology of Asthma • IgE coats submucosal mast cells and repeat exposure to the allergen triggers the mast cells to release granules contents and produce cytokines and other mediators which induce the early phase reaction and the last phase reaction.

Early phase reaction: • Result within one hour • Mast cells release mediators (histamine, leukotriene, prostaglandins, enzymes). • Bronchoconstriction • Increased vascular permeability • Increased mucus production Pathophysiology of Asthma Kumar (2010) et al: Fig 15-10D, p690

Late-phase reaction: • Mast cells, epithelial cells, T cells, and other cytokines produce chemokines to recruit leukocytes • Inflammation with recruitment of leukocytes • Mediators released from leukocytes, endothelium and epithelial cells in late reaction Pathophysiology of Asthma • Kumar (2010) et al: Fig 15-10 E, p690

Pathophysiology of Asthma • Repeated bouts of allergen exposure and immune reactions result in structural changes in the bronchial wall called airway remodeling

Pathophysiology of Asthma • Excess mucus • Intense inflammation • Smooth muscle hyperplasia and hypertrophy

Pathophysiology of Asthma • Over thickening of airway wall • Increase in size of submucosal glands • Sub-basement membrane fibrosis • Increased vascularity • Hypertrophy and/or hyperplasia of the bronchial wall muscle • Kumar (2010) et al: Fig 15-10 B, p690

Discuss the hypersensitivity trigger of asthma and contrast with the risk factors in this teenager. Question 2

Common Asthma Triggers • Tobacco Smoke • Tobacco smoke is unhealthy for everyone, especially people with asthma • If you have asthma, people should never smoke near you • Dust Mites • Cockroaches Allergen • Cockroaches and their droppings can trigger an asthma attacks • Outdoor air pollution • Pets • Mold • Smoke – burning wood or grass • Other Triggers • Infections: Flu, RSV, Sinus Infections • Bad Weather, Physical Exercise • Acid Reflux, Strong Fragrances • Strong Emotions

Asthma Triggers History of Asthma Diagnosed at Age 10 Frequent Sinusitis Exposure to secondhand smoke Spent the night at a friends house whose father is a smoker Family History Grandfather: COPD Secondary to smoking No longer smokes Patient Risk Factors

Question 3 Compare and contrast the typical manifestations of asthma with those seen in this case. Include pathologic etiology of each manifestation.

Manifestations of Asthma Typical Manifestations Patient’s Manifestations • Wheezing • Coughing • Chest tightness • Shortness of breath • Severe shortness of breath with difficulty speaking • Unproductive cough • Tachycardia, heart rate 110 • Tachypnea, respiratory rate 24 • Anxiety • Hypoxia, oxygen saturation on room air 88% • Bilateral high-pitched, diffuse expiratory wheezing • Use of accessory muscles Typical manifestations data (Kumar et al., 2010)

Etiology of Manifestations Asthma is a disease that inflames and narrows the airways of your lungs. (1) Inflammation • Inflammation is triggered by anything in the environment that causes a person’s airway to hyper-react and make breathing difficult. • Jenny’s trigger was tobacco smoke. • The inhaled smoke elicited a TH2 dominated response. • “TH2 cells secrete cytokines that promote allergic inflammation and stimulate B cells to produce IgE and other antibodies. These cytokines include IL-4,which stimulates the production of IgE; IL-5, which activates locally recruited eosinophils; and IL-13, which stimulates mucus secretion from bronchial submucosal glands and also promotes IgE production and B cells” (Kumar et al., 2010, p. 689).

Etiology of Manifestations Asthma is a disease that inflames and narrows the airways of your lungs. (1) Inflammation • Early reaction • Bronchoconstriction/reversible bronchospasm (triggered by direct stimulation of subepithelial vagal receptors • Increased mucus production • Variable degrees of vasodilation with increased vascular permeability (Kumar et al., 2010)

Etiology of Manifestations Asthma is a disease that inflames and narrows the airways of your lungs. (1) Inflammation • Late reaction • Inflammation with recruitment of leukocytes (eosinophils), neutrophils and T cells • Leukocyte recruitment is stimulated by chemokines produced by mast cells, epithelial cells and T cells • Increased airway constriction (Kumar et al., 2010) Image obtained from

Etiology of Manifestations Asthma is a respiratory disease that inflames and narrows the airways of your lungs. Swelling Bronchoconstriction Image obtained from

Asthma at a glance

Facts on second hand smoking and asthma • Exposure to secondhand smokingcan trigger asthma attacks and make asthma symptoms more severe (EPA, 2013). • Second hand smoking contributes to children/adolescent’s asthma attacks more than adults due to their narrower airways (Salmun et al., 2007). • Cotinine is a nicotine byproduct that has been found in saliva, urine, and blood of children/adolescent exposed to secondhand smoking (Salmun et al., 2007). • Children with asthma who are exposed to secondhand smoking have asthma that is harder to control, even with medication (Jarvey et al., 2008)

Question 4 Discuss the results of the diagnostic studies in this case and the relationship to asthma.

Chest X-ray • Hyperluscent • Hyperinflated lungs • No infiltrates present • Lab Values : Patient Value :: Normal Value • Chemistry : WNL • H&H : WNL • WBC : 8.0 x 103/mm : 4-10 X 103mm • PMN : 56% : 50 – 65% • Bands :1% : 0 – 5 % • Eosinophils : 4% : 0 – 3 % • Basophils : 2 : 1 – 3 % • Lymphocytes : 32 % : 25 – 35 % • Monocytes : 5% : 2 – 6 % Patient’s Diagnostic Studies

Abnormal Chest X-Ray • Related to air-trapping due to bronchial constriction • Increased air volume is due to: • Bronchial constriction and air trapping • This causes the image to become hyperluscent • Eosinophils • Slightly elevated • Possibly due to allergies • These are the predominate inflammatory cells in allergic reactions • Causes of eosinophilia • Allergic reactions • Asthma • Hay fever • Hives Correlating The Abnormal Lab Values and Patient “Jenny”

Question 5 What is the FEV1/FVC ratio?  Discuss what these means in this case and analyze the results as they related to obstructive vs. restrictive lung disorders.

Forced Vital Capacity FVC (Forced Vital Capacity) -- This is the total volume of air expired after a full inspiration. Patients with obstructive lung disease usually have a normal or only slightly decreased vital capacity. Patients with restrictive lung disease have a decreased vital capacity. FEV1 (Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 Second) -- This is the volume of air expired in the first second during maximal expiratory effort. The FEV1 is reduced in both obstructive and restrictive lung disease. The FEV1 is reduced in obstructive lung disease because of increased airway resistance. It is reduced in restrictive lung disease because of the low vital capacity. FEV1/FVC -- This is the percentage of the vital capacity which is expired in the first second of maximal expiration. In healthy patients the FEV1/FVC is usually around 70%. In patients with obstructive lung disease FEV1/FVC decreases and can be as low as 20-30% in severe obstructive airway disease. Restrictive disorders have a near normal FEV1/FVC. DLCO (Diffusing Capacity of the Lung for Carbon Monoxide) -- Carbon monoxide can be used to measure the diffusing capacity of the lung. The diffusing capacity of the lung is decreased in parenchymal lung disease and COPD (especially emphysema) but is normal in asthma.

Spirometry Should be done on: Initial diagnosis After treatment is started & symptoms have stabilized Every 1 to 2 years Spirometry is used to measure the rate of airflow during maximal expiratory effort after maximal inhalation. Can be useful in differentiating obstructive and restrictive lung disorders. In asthma (obstructive disorder): forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) is: decreased forced vital capacity (FVC) is : normal ratio FEV1/FVC is : decreased. In restrictive disorders: The FEV1 and FVC are both decreased Leaving a normal FEV1/FVC. With the use of a bronchodilator will demonstrate: An increase in FEV1 of 12% or 200 ml. Patients with severe asthma may need a short course of oral steroid therapy before they demonstrate reversibility. Provides an objective assessment of airflow obstruction and is important in staging asthma severity.

Lab Results Before Receiving Treatment After receiving bronchodilator : • Tidal Volume (TV)                               350 cc • Inspiratory Reserved Volume (IRV)    1600 cc • Expiratory Reserved Volume (ERV)    400 cc • IRV + ERV                                            1900cc • Forced Vital Capacity (FVC)                2300 cc   • FEV1                                                     950 cc   • FEV1/FVC ratio                                    0.41     • Less than .7 is accepted as being diagnostic of significant airflow obstruction • DLCO                                                   Normal • IRV + ERV   900 cc • Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) 2800 cc • FEV1 2200 cc • FEV1/FVC ratio 0.79

Videos • Good, Long, Detailed Asthma Review • An Asthma Attack • Basic Asthma Information • Asthma Animation

References • Allen, J. Interpretation of pulmonary function tests. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from‎ • Altinsoy,B., Altintas,N. (2011). Diagnostic approach to unilateral hyperlucent lung. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2 (12), 95-98. • Jarvie, J., & Malone, R. (2008). Children’s secondhand smoke exposure in private homes and cars: An ethical analysis. American Journal of Public Health, 98 (12),2140-2145. • Kumar, V., Abbas, A.K., Fausto, N., Aster, J.C. (2010). Robbins and Cotran pathologic basis of disease (8th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier. • Salmun, L., Chilmonczyk, B., Megathlin, K., Haddow, J., & Pulkkinen, A. (2007). Association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and exacerbations of asthma in children. Journal of Medicine, 328 (23), 165-169.

References • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013).  Asthma basic information: frequently asked questions. Retrieved from • UC San Diego School of Medicine. (1998). Pulmonary function tests. Retrieved October 17, 2013, Retrieved from • United States Environmental and Protection Agency (EPA). (2013). Secondhand smoke and its affects in children. Retrieved from • Wai, Y.C., Sau, F.N., Emily, T.L., Yiu, Y.C., Kwok, K.C., Yui., Cheuk, T.M., and Yuk, Y.k. (2013). Spirometry is underused in the diagnosis and monitoring of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, 8, 389-395.

References: Images and Videos Images Videos • Genentech. (n.d.). • Kumar (2010) et al: Fig 6-11, p195 • Kumar (2010) et al: Fig 15-10C, p690 • Kumar (2010) et al: Fig 15-10D, p690 • Kumar (2010) et al: Fig 15-10 E, p690 • Kumar (2010) et al: Fig 15-10 A&B, p690 • Kumar (2010) et al: Fig 15-10 B, p690 • UC San Diego School of Medicine. (1998). Pulmonary function tests. Retrieved October 17, 2013, Retrieved from • U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). • Asad, F. (2010). Asthma- YouTube. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from • CPRFreak. (2010). Grace's asthma attack - YouTube. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from • NHS Choices. (2010). Asthma: An animation – YouTube. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from • World Medical School. (2012). Asthma- USMLE step 2 review - YouTube. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from

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