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Asthma in adults - temporary access

Managing mild to moderate asthma in adults

22 Nov 2018

The National Review of Asthma Deaths found that most patients who died were actually considered to have mild to moderate asthma, with 57% of fatal cases not under specialist care at the time of their death. In cases of fatal asthma there was widespread underuse of inhaled corticosteroids and an overreliance on short-acting beta-agonists. Referral to secondary care should take place when there is diagnostic uncertainty or atypical features, the possibility of hypersensitivity to inhaled material or concerns over treatment or exacerbations. Patients who have suffered even a single life-threatening asthma attack should be under specialist supervision. 

GPs have key role in improving outcomes in acute asthma

24 Nov 2016

Features which indicate a high risk of severe attacks include: previous admission to intensive care, particularly if requiring mechanical ventilation; previous admission with asthma especially in the past year or repeated emergency admissions; history of worsening asthma in January or February; use of three or more classes of asthma medication; heavy use of beta-2 agonists; anxiety traits; and marital stress. 

Optimising the management of patients with difficult asthma

25 Nov 2015

Between 5 and 10% of asthma (depending on the definition used) is categorised as difficult asthma, a term which generally refers to patients who continue to experience symptoms and frequent exacerbations despite the prescription of high-dose asthma therapy. Difficult asthma is an indication for specialist review by an appropriate respiratory physician, but close liaison between primary, secondary and tertiary care is critical.

Improving the management of asthma in adults in primary care

24 Nov 2014

Studies in adult patients have suggested that 30% of those diagnosed with asthma do not have the condition and it is likely that the diagnosis is missed in many others. The BTS/SIGN guideline advocates spirometry after taking the history. If airflow obstruction is present, a trial of treatment can commence, but a firm diagnosis also requires a symptomatic response and an improvement in the measured airflow obstruction. The FeNO level correlates well with airway inflammation, and is therefore a good indicator of asthma and in particular of the likely response to inhaled corticosteroids. The test is especially useful for patients with suggestive symptoms but normal spirometry.

Preventing avoidable asthma deaths

23 Sep 2014

Deaths from asthma are frequently avoidable, the National Review of Asthma Deaths has confirmed. Key findings from the report include: Almost half the patients (45%) died without seeking medical help or before help could be provided; 10% died within 28 days of discharge from hospital; 21% had attended A&E with asthma in the previous year; and only 23% had a personal asthma action plan. Over-prescription of short-acting bronchodilators and under-prescription of preventer inhalers was common.

Occupational asthma often goes unrecognised

12 Dec 2012

Occupational asthma is induced de novo by an airborne agent encountered in the workplace. The risk of occupational asthma is greater in those with a prior atopic history. Work-exacerbated asthma is the provocation of pre-existing, or coincidental, disease by one or more irritant exposures at work. Distinguishing occupational from work-exacerbated asthma can be difficult but it is important since the two have very different clinical, occupational and legal implications. 

 

Symposium: Respiratory medicine

Managing mild to moderate asthma in adults

22 Nov 2018

The National Review of Asthma Deaths found that most patients who died were actually considered to have mild to moderate asthma, with 57% of fatal cases not under specialist care at the time of their death. In cases of fatal asthma there was widespread underuse of inhaled corticosteroids and an overreliance on short-acting beta-agonists. Referral to secondary care should take place when there is diagnostic uncertainty or atypical features, the possibility of hypersensitivity to inhaled material or concerns over treatment or exacerbations. Patients who have suffered even a single life-threatening asthma attack should be under specialist supervision. 

Diagnosing and managing cystic fibrosis in children

22 Nov 2018Registered users

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a multisystem genetic disorder affecting around 1 in 2,500 live births in the UK. Although all newborns undergo screening for CF, around 15% of infants will present shortly after birth with meconium ileus and some will already have faltering growth when the screening results are available at 3-4 weeks of age. Infants who present with meconium ileus should be treated with a high index of suspicion for CF until proven otherwise. Mucociliary dysfunction leads to accumulation of mucus in the airways and secondary infection. Respiratory symptoms may be non-specific initially and include cough and wheeziness, frequent respiratory infections and, in older children, sinusitis.

Managing complications of cystic fibrosis in adults

22 Nov 2018Registered users

Overall survival has improved dramatically for patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) since the millennium such that median life expectancy now extends into the fifth decade. However, with increasing longevity comes a range of comorbidities, some as complications of the disease itself but others as a consequence of long-term treatments required to manage CF. Chronic infection and inflammation eventually cause irreversible bronchiectasis and decline in pulmonary function, and 90% of CF deaths are caused by progressive respiratory failure.

 

Other respiratory diseases

Assessment and management of active and latent TB

24 Nov 2016Paid-up subscribers

Clinically significant disease occurs through progression of primary infection or through later reactivation of latent TB infection (LTBI); this is most likely to occur in the first few years following infection, although late reactivation can occur several decades later, particularly in individuals who become immunosuppressed. Risk of TB acquisition is increased in people who have come to the UK from high incidence countries or who are born in the UK but come from high-risk ethnic minority groups. Other risk groups include those who are homeless, in prison or who misuse drugs or alcohol.

Early diagnosis pivotal to survival in lung cancer

24 Nov 2014Paid-up subscribers

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death, both in the UK and worldwide. There has been little change in survival over the past 20 years, with increasing evidence that there are disparities in outcomes between the UK and other comparable healthcare systems. It has been postulated that this is due to an excess of early deaths, delays in diagnosis are thought to contribute to this problem. A recent study showed that 30% of patients with lung cancer die within the first 90 days and they have seen their GP on average five times in the four months before diagnosis, suggesting there may be opportunities to diagnose these patients earlier in the disease process. The challenge GPs face is to identify and refer those at risk as early as possible and to maintain a high index of suspicion if symptoms persist.  [With external links to current evidence base]

Diagnosing and managing pulmonary hypertension

12 Dec 2012Paid-up subscribers

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is defined as an increase in mean pulmonary arterial pressure ≥ 25 mmHg at rest as assessed invasively by right heart catheterisation. It can affect patients at any age and presents with non-specific symptoms. Accurate diagnosis is important as while PH is a potentially lethal disease it is treatable. Identification of the cause of PH is crucial to ensure that the patient receives appropriate management.

Improving outcomes in lung cancer patients

23 Nov 2011Registered users

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality in the UK resulting in more than 33,500 deaths in 2008, 4,000 more than for bowel and breast cancer combined. Five-year survival figures are poor but have recently improved from around 5% to 7.5% in men and 8.5% in women.There is evidence of marked variation in the standard of care in England.  It has recently been shown that if patients are first referred to a thoracic surgical centre, rather than a hospital that does not have thoracic surgeons on site, they are 51% more likely to have a resection. There are similar findings for other active treatments. By reducing this variation there is scope for marked improvement in outcomes, possibly to levels seen in other countries such as Australia, Canada, Sweden and Norway where five-year survival rates are approximately double. Thus there is a need to encourage lung cancer teams to select patients correctly so that the best treatment can be offered. Improving diagnosis, staging and fitness assessment was a major focus in the recently updated NICE guideline on diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer, published in April 2011.  [With external links to current evidence and summaries]

Tackling upper respiratory tract infections

22 Nov 2010Paid-up subscribers

Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) refers to a wide range of acute illnesses that affect the upper respiratory tract. URTIs are the most common reason for general practice consultations. On average adults suffer two to three such infections per year. Most URTIs are self-managed. A UK study of 516 women aged 20-44 years found that only one in 18 episodes of sore throat led to a general practice consultation. Patients who do seek consultations often benefit from reassurance, education and instructions for symptomatic home treatment. A large proportion of antibiotic prescribing in primary care is for respiratory tract infections. There was a 44% reduction in antibiotic prescribing for respiratory tract infections between 1994 and 2000. The larger part of this reduction was due to lower consultation rates rather than a decrease in prescribing by GPs. Antibiotics are frequently prescribed for resolving symptoms and to prevent complications. Patients' expectations have a significant influence on prescribing, even when their doctor judges that antibiotics are not indicated.There are certain at-risk groups who require immediate antibiotics or further evaluation.

Obstructive sleep apnoea increases risk of CVD

15 Nov 2009Paid-up subscribers

In OSA, the patient suffers repeated episodes of apnoea caused by narrowing or closure of the pharyngeal airway during sleep. About 2-4% of the middle-aged population have OSA. Although understanding of the condition has improved considerably, it is estimated that 85-90% of sufferers still remain undiagnosed.

 

Asthma - research reviews

Temporary quadrupling of inhaled steroids can reduce severe asthma exacerbations

23 Apr 2018

A temporary four-fold increase in inhaled steroids for deteriorating asthma control reduced the incidence of severe exacerbations, in a UK study.

Breathing self-management programme improves quality of life in asthma

23 Jan 2018

A breathing retraining exercise programme, incorporating a training DVD and accompanying booklet, achieved similar improvements in quality of life scores as conventional face to face training in patients with asthma, in a UK study.

 

Asthma in children - temporary access

Managing acute asthma in children

25 Jun 2018

The BTS/SIGN guideline specifies that the accurate measurement of oxygen saturation is essential in the assessment of all children with acute wheezing. It recommends that oxygen saturation probes and monitors should be available for use by all healthcare professionals assessing acute asthma in primary care. It is important to use the appropriate size paediatric probe to ensure accuracy. Any patient who presents to the GP practice with any features of a moderate exacerbation should be referred to an emergency department for further assessment and monitoring. 

Regular review pivotal in chronic asthma in children

23 Nov 2017

The aim of asthma treatment is complete control of symptoms as soon as possible while minimising side effects and inconvenience to the patient. All parents and older children should be offered a written action plan. This should include details of the patient’s regular medicines, how to recognise deterioration and what to do in the event of an attack. Children should be referred to secondary care if: the diagnosis is unclear; control remains poor despite monitored treatment; they have suffered a life-threatening attack or red flag features are present.

 

Wheeze in children

Risk factors for wheezing in early childhood across Europe

22 Nov 2018Registered users

Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs), maternal smoking, day care attendance and male gender are important risk factors for wheezing in infants, a panEuropean study has confirmed. Food allergy and infant feeding practices were not associated with wheeze. The prevalence of wheezing varied widely between different European countries.

Optimising the management of wheeze in preschool children

23 Jun 2016Paid-up subscribers

One third of all preschool children will have an episode of wheeze and many of these present to primary care. Most will fall within a spectrum of diagnosis ranging from episodic viral wheeze to multiple trigger wheeze or early onset asthma. The child should be referred to hospital immediately if you suspect an inhaled foreign body or anaphylaxis (after administering IM adrenaline). NICE recommends immediate referral for children with wheeze and high-risk features and also those with intermediate-risk features failing to respond to bronchodilator therapy.

 

COPD related articles

Smoking duration the best indicator of COPD progression

22 May 2018Registered users

The number of years that an individual has been smoking is closely linked to the degree of structural lung disease, airflow obstruction and functional outcomes in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a better measure than pack-years or the number of cigarettes smoked per day, a large study from the USA has shown.

Pulmonary rehabilitation improves exercise capacity and quality of life

23 Jan 2018Registered users

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a multifaceted programme of exercise and education that aims to improve breathlessness, exercise capacity, and quality of life, and aid self-management. Patients with chronic respiratory failure, those on long-term or ambulatory oxygen and patients with anxiety and depression can all benefit from rehabilitation. It is one of the most beneficial and cost-effective treatments for COPD and should be considered a fundamental component of disease management rather than an option.

Improving outcomes in COPD

23 Nov 2017Paid-up subscribers

Cigarette smoking is overwhelmingly the most important risk factor for COPD. In some cases, other factors such as occupation, passive exposure to inhalants and fetal nutrition/low birthweight are also important. The diagnosis should be suspected in symptomatic patients with risk factors, usually cigarette smoking, aged 40 years or above, albeit a majority of people with COPD present when considerably older. The 2017 GOLD guideline recommends that management should be focused on two objectives. First, to relieve symptoms of breathlessness (assessed using the MRC dyspnoea scale) and improve quality of life (assessed by the COPD Assessment Test). Second, to reduce risk assessed by the number of exacerbations and hospitalisations in the previous year.

 

Research reviews

Risk factors for wheezing in early childhood across Europe

22 Nov 2018Registered users

Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs), maternal smoking, day care attendance and male gender are important risk factors for wheezing in infants, a panEuropean study has confirmed. Food allergy and infant feeding practices were not associated with wheeze. The prevalence of wheezing varied widely between different European countries.

Breastfeeding may protect against recurrent cough in early adult life

22 Oct 2018Registered users

Longer duration of breastfeeding appears to reduce the risk of recurrent cough in young adults, a study from the United States has found. The researchers used data from the Tucson Children’s Respiratory Study, a large non-selected birth cohort in which infant feeding practices and adult health outcomes were ascertained prospectively.

Smoking duration the best indicator of COPD progression

22 May 2018Registered users

The number of years that an individual has been smoking is closely linked to the degree of structural lung disease, airflow obstruction and functional outcomes in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a better measure than pack-years or the number of cigarettes smoked per day, a large study from the USA has shown.

Temporary quadrupling of inhaled steroids can reduce severe asthma exacerbations

23 Apr 2018

A temporary four-fold increase in inhaled steroids for deteriorating asthma control reduced the incidence of severe exacerbations, in a UK study.

Breathing self-management programme improves quality of life in asthma

23 Jan 2018

A breathing retraining exercise programme, incorporating a training DVD and accompanying booklet, achieved similar improvements in quality of life scores as conventional face to face training in patients with asthma, in a UK study.