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Asthma, Diagnosis, Elderly, Management, Treatment



  1. Arjona, Nydia RN, BSN, CCRN


Asthma affects the elderly as often as other age groups; however, it more often becomes fatal in the elderly. Unfortunately, asthma is often unmanaged or underdiagnosed in the older population. It is important for health care providers to recognize risk factors in the elderly and properly treat them before asthma becomes fatal. This article describes near-fatal asthma and identifies risk factors specifically for the elderly. Symptoms of asthma are reviewed as well as assessments and diagnostic tests to identify asthma severity and complications. Proper management needs to be urgently initiated to prevent worsening respiratory distress; this includes fast-acting drug treatments appropriate for elderly patients. Decompensated acute respiratory failure, secondary to severe asthma, requires the skills of an experienced anesthesiologist because these patients may rapidly deteriorate during induction and intubation. Ventilator management must include strategies to prevent worsening hyperinflation of the lungs. Elderly asthma patients have a higher mortality risk related to ventilator complications and other comorbidities.