Publication: Healthcare utilization in infants and toddlers with asthma-like symptoms

Healthcare utilization in infants and toddlers with asthma-like symptoms.

Pediatric Pulmonology, 2019. 54(10): pp. 1567-1577.

Levine H, Leventer-Roberts M, Hoshen M, Mei-Zahav M, Balicer R, Blau H.


Background: Recurrent asthma-like symptoms are common in infants, but few population studies describe diagnostic and treatment practice.

Methods: Using the electronic data repository of Clalit Health Services, the largest integrated health care provider in Israel, we evaluated children born 2005-2012, who before 3 years of age had >3 episodes of asthma-like symptoms and/or >2 bronchodilator purchases within a year. We described health care utilization and the odds ratio for subsequent utilization after 3 and 12 months’ controller therapy. The primary outcome measure was respiratory-related doctor visits. Linear and categorical regression analysis measured overall effectiveness of therapy.

Results: Among 689 171 infants, 262 900 (38.1%) had > 3 asthma-like episodes/year during at least 1 year. Of those, 26 108 (10%) purchased controller therapy: 20 316 (77.8%) inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) with or without leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRA), and 5792 (22.2%) LTRA alone. For these 26 108 over 3 months there were 93 845 respiratory-related doctor visits, 3110 hospital admissions, 5568 diagnoses of pneumonia, 9960 chest X-rays, 37 127 purchases for oral steroids, and 45 142 for antibiotics courses. Healthcare utilization decreased following ICS ± LTRA and LTRA alone, respectively, as follows: doctor visits 7% and 3%, chest X-rays 16% and 17%, bronchodilators 20% and 11%, systemic steroids 17% and 12%, and antibiotics by 35% and 22%, (P < .001 for all). Twelve months’ therapy remained effective.

Conclusions: Asthma-like symptoms are common in infants. Health care utilization is very high and physician practices should be reassessed. Following controller therapy, health care utilization decreased. Yet controllers were prescribed in only a minority of eligible children.