Article Text

See original article:

This article has a correction. Please see:

Download PDFPDF
Anticholinergics in the treatment of children and adults with acute asthma: a systematic review with meta-analysis
  1. G J Rodrigo1,
  2. J A Castro-Rodriguez2
  1. 1Departamento de Emergencia, Hospital Central de las FF.AA, Av 8 de Octubre 3050, Montevideo 11600 and Clinica Respirar, Benito Nardone 2310, Montevideo 11300, Uruguay
  2. 2Pediatric Pulmonary Section, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr G J Rodrigo
    Departamento de Emergencia, Hospital Central de las FF.AA, Av 8 de octubre 3020, Montevideo 11600, Uruguay;


Background: Current guidelines recommend the use of a combination of inhaled β2 agonists and anticholinergics, particularly for patients with acute severe or life threatening asthma in the emergency setting. However, this statement is based on a relatively small number of randomised controlled trials and related systematic reviews. A review was undertaken to incorporate the more recent evidence available about the effectiveness of treatment with a combination of β2 agonists and anticholinergics compared with β2 agonists alone in the treatment of acute asthma.

Methods: A search was conducted of all randomised controlled trials published before April 2005.

Results: Data from 32 randomised controlled trials (n = 3611 subjects) showed significant reductions in hospital admissions in both children (RR = 0.73; 95% CI 0.63 to 0.85, p = 0.0001) and adults (RR = 0.68; 95% CI 0.53 to 0.86, p = 0.002) treated with inhaled anticholinergic agents. Combined treatment also produced a significant increase in spirometric parameters 60–120 minutes after the last treatment in both children (SMD = −0.54; 95% CI −0.28 to −0.81, p = 0.0001) and adults (SMD = −0.36; 95% CI −0.23 to −0.49, p = 0.00001).

Conclusions: This review strongly suggests that the addition of multiple doses of inhaled ipratropium bromide to β2 agonists is indicated as the standard treatment in children, adolescents, and adults with moderate to severe exacerbations of asthma in the emergency setting.

  • CCS, corticosteroids
  • ED, emergency department
  • FEV1, forced expiratory volume in 1 second
  • NNT, number of patients needed to treat
  • PEF, peak expiratory flow
  • RR, relative risk
  • SMD, standardised mean difference
  • WMD, weighted mean difference
  • anticholinergics
  • β2 agonists
  • ipratropium bromide
  • oxitropium bromide
  • glycopyrrolate
  • acute asthma
  • children

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Published Online First 17 June 2005

  • GJR has received fees for speaking from Boehringer Ingelheim.

Linked Articles

  • Correction
    BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and British Thoracic Society
  • Correction
    BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and British Thoracic Society