Research Article

Asthma: analysis of sudden deaths and ventilatory arrests in hospital.

Br Med J 1977; 1 doi: (Published 26 March 1977) Cite this as: Br Med J 1977;1:808
  1. M R Hetzel,
  2. T J Clark,
  3. M A Branthwaite


    The incidence of episodes of unexpected ventilatory arrest, some of which led to sudden death, was studied in 1169 consecutive hospital admissions for asthma. Of the most acute cases, 458 were initially managed in a special care unit where only one ventilatory arrest occurred. A further nine cases of arrest, three of which proved fatal, happened on general wards. Accepted clinical criteria of a severe attack were not present in those episodes occurring outside the unit, which were apparently mild attacks. The risk of sudden death could not be related to the severity of the attack but it did correlate with the presence of excessive diurnal variation in peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR). Special treatment of patients with this sign might reduce mortality.