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Salbutamol or aminophylline for acute severe asthma: how to choose which one, when and why?
  1. Matthew Neame1,
  2. Octavio Aragon2,
  3. Ricardo M Fernandes3,4,
  4. Ian Sinha1
  1. 1Department of Respiratory Medicine, Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool, UK
  2. 2Department of Pharmacy, Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool, UK
  3. 3Department of Pediatrics, Hospital Santa Maria, Lisbon Academic Medical Centre, Lisbon, Portugal
  4. 4Clinical Pharmacology Unit, Instituto de Medicina Molecular, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ian Sinha, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Eaton Road, Liverpool L12 2AP, UK; I.Sinha{at}


Acute, severe exacerbations of asthma present a challenge due to the significant morbidity associated with this presentation. For exacerbations that are refractory to initial treatments with inhaled and oral therapies, there is still doubt about which intravenous therapies are most likely to be helpful. β-2 agonists and aminophylline have differing mechanisms of action that also affect their adverse effects profiles and these are considered. A review of the available randomised control trials suggests that a bolus of intravenous salbutamol may reduce symptoms and hasten recovery. Aminophylline infusions may improve lung function, and in some studies have been shown to improve symptoms, but the evidence is not clear cut. Decisions about which treatment to use should include risk management considerations such as ease of prescription, preparation and administration factors and availability of high-dependency beds.

  • Accident & Emergency
  • Respiratory
  • General Paediatrics
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