BACKGROUND: The management of asthma attacks by general practitioners in 1992/93 was compared with 1991/92 in relation to recommended guidelines. METHODS: The findings from a postal survey of 299 UK general practitioners who managed 2332 patients with an asthma attack in 1992/93 were compared with those from 218 practitioners who managed 1805 attacks in 1991/92. Management by a subgroup of practitioners from a special interest group was analysed separately. RESULTS: In 1992/93 2031 (87%) of attacks were managed entirely by general practitioners, 251 (11%) were referred for admission to hospital, and 50 (2%) were managed by an accident and emergency department. There was no change in the pattern of management relative to 1991/92. Compared with recommended guidelines there was underuse of systemic steroids and nebulised bronchodilators. Between 1991/92 and 1992/93 use of systemic steroids in acute attacks increased from 56% to 71%, nebulised bronchodilators from 31% to 32%, and an increase in prophylactic medication after an acute attack from 41% to 49%. Contrary to guidelines, antibiotic use increased from 32% to 40% of attacks. Practitioners from a special interest asthma group gave more of their patients systemic steroids and nebulised bronchodilators both in 1991/92 and 1992/93. CONCLUSIONS: Some aspects of the management of asthma attacks by general practitioners has changed in line with guidelines, but there is still a large gap between actual and recommended management.
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