Asthma is one of the most common reasons for hospital admission among children and constitutes a significant economic burden. Use of non-invasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) in the care of children with acute asthma has increased even though evidence supporting the intervention has been considered weak and clinical guidelines do not recommend the intervention. NPPV might be an effective intervention for acute asthma, but no systematic review has been conducted to assess the effects of NPPV as an add-on therapy to usual care in children with acute asthma.
To assess the benefits and harms of NPPV as an add-on therapy to usual care (e.g. bronchodilators and corticosteroids) in children with acute asthma.
We identified trials from the Cochrane Airways Group Specialised Register (CAGR). The Register contains trial reports identified through systematic searches of bibliographic databases, including the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, AMED and PsycINFO, and by handsearching of respiratory journals and meeting abstracts. We also conducted a search of ClinicalTrials.gov (www.ClinicalTrials.gov) and the WHO trials portal (www.who.int/ictrp/en/). We searched all databases from their inception to February 2016, with no restriction on language of publication.
We included randomised clinical trials (RCTs) assessing NPPV as add-on therapy to usual care versus usual care for children (age < 18 years) hospitalised for an acute asthma attack.
Two review authors independently screened titles and abstracts. We retrieved all relevant full-text study reports, independently screened the full text, identified trials for inclusion and identified and recorded reasons for exclusion of ineligible trials. We resolved disagreements through discussion or, if required, consulted a third review author. We recorded the selection process in sufficient detail to complete a PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses) flow diagram and 'Characteristics of excluded studies' table. We identified the risk of bias of included studies to reduce the risk of systematic error. We contacted relevant study authors when data were missing.
We included two RCTs that randomised 20 participants to NPPV and 20 participants to control. We assessed both studies as having high risk of bias; both trials assessed effects of bilateral positive airway pressure (BiPAP). Neither trial used continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Controls received standard care. Investigators reported no deaths and no serious adverse events (Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE): very low quality of evidence due to serious risk of bias and serious imprecision of results). Both trials showed a statistically significant reduction in symptom score. One trial did not report a standard deviation (SD), but by using an estimated SD, we found a statistically significantly reduced asthma symptom score (mean difference (MD) -2.50, 95% confidence interval (CI) -4.70 to -0.30, P = 0.03, 19 participants, GRADE: very low quality of evidence). In the other trial, NPPV was associated with a lower total symptom score (5.6 vs 1.9, 16 participants, very low quality of evidence) before cross-over, but investigators did not report an SD, nor could it be estimated from the first phase of the trial, before the cross-over. These gains could be clinically relevant, as a reduction of three or more points in symptom score is considered a clinically meaningful change. Researchers documented five dropouts (12.5%), four of which were due to intolerance to NPPV, and one to respiratory failure requiring intubation. Owing to insufficient reporting in the latter trial and use of different scoring systems, it was not possible to conduct a meta-analysis nor a Trial Sequential Analysis.
Current evidence does not permit confirmation or rejection of the effects of NPPV for acute asthma in children. Large RCTs with low risk of bias are warranted.