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Status Asthmaticus

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By Matt Vera BSN, R.N.

Status Asthmaticus, a severe and life-threatening exacerbation of asthma, demands urgent and skilled intervention from healthcare professionals. As frontline caregivers, nurses play a crucial role in the management of this critical condition, providing timely assessment, intervention, and compassionate support to patients in distress.

This article seeks to shed light on the complexities of Status Asthmaticus and offer nursing perspectives on its recognition, prompt action, and comprehensive management. Through a deeper understanding of the pathophysiology and risk factors, nurses can enhance their ability to deliver evidence-based care and contribute to improved outcomes for individuals experiencing this respiratory crisis.

Table of Contents

What is Status Asthmaticus?

  • Status asthmaticus is severe and persistent asthma that does not respond to conventional therapy; attacks can occur with little or no warning and can progress rapidly to asphyxiation.
  • Infectionanxiety, nebulizer abuse, dehydration, increased adrenergic blockage, and nonspecific irritants may contribute to these episodes.
  • An acute episode may be precipitated by hypersensitivity to aspirin.
  • Two predominant pathologic problems occur a decrease in bronchial diameter and a ventilation–perfusion abnormality.

Clinical Manifestations

  • Same as those in severe asthma.
  • No correlation between severity of attack and number of wheezes; with greater obstruction, wheezing may disappear, possibly signaling impending respiratory failure.

Assessment and Diagnostic Findings

  • Primarily pulmonary function studies and ABG analysis
  • Respiratory alkalosis most common finding
  • NURSING ALERT: Rising PaCO2 to normal or higher is a danger sign, signaling respiratory failure.

Nursing Diagnosis

The following nursing diagnoses are applicable to patients with Status Asthmaticus:

  • Ineffective Airway Clearance related to bronchospasms and increased pulmonary secretions.
  • Fear related to breathlessness and recurrences
  • Impaired Gas Exchange
  • Imbalanced Nutrition: Less Than Body Requirements
  • Deficient Knowledge

Nursing Priorities

  1. Maintain/establish airway patency
  2. Assist with measures to facilitate gas exchange.
  3. Enhance nutritional intake
  4. Prevent complications and slow progression of condition.
  5. Provide information about disease process, prognosis, and treatment regimen.

Nursing Care Plans

Main Article: 5 Bronchial Asthma Nursing Care Plans

Medical Management

  • Initial treatment: beta-2-adrenergic agonists, corticosteroids, supplemental oxygen and IV fluids to hydrate patient. Sedatives are contraindicated.
  • Highflow supplemental oxygen is best delivered using a partial or complete nonrebreather mask (PaO2 at a minimum of 92 mm Hg or O2 saturation greater than 95%).
  • Magnesium sulfate, a calcium antagonist, may be administered to induce smooth muscle relaxation.
  • Hospitalization if no response to repeated treatments or if blood gas levels deteriorate or pulmonary function scores are low.
  • Mechanical ventilation if patient is tiring or in respiratory failure or if condition does not respond to treatment.

Nursing Management

The main focus of nursing management is to actively assess the airway and the patient’s response to treatment. The nurse should be prepared for the next intervention if the patient does not respond to treatment.

  • Constantly monitor the patient for the first 12 to 24 hours, or until status asthmaticus is under control. Blood pressure and cardiac rhythm should be monitored continuously during the acute phase and until the patient stabilizes and responds to therapy.
  • Assess the patient’s skin turgor for signs of dehydration; fluid intake is essential to combat dehydration, to loosen secretions, and to facilitate expectoration.
  • Administer IV fluids as prescribed, up to 3 to 4 L/day, unless contraindicated.
  • Encourage the patient to conserve energy.
  • Ensure patient’s room is quiet and free of respiratory irritants (eg, flowers, tobacco smoke, perfumes, or odors of cleaning agents); nonallergenic pillows should be used.
Matt Vera, a registered nurse since 2009, leverages his experiences as a former student struggling with complex nursing topics to help aspiring nurses as a full-time writer and editor for Nurseslabs, simplifying the learning process, breaking down complicated subjects, and finding innovative ways to assist students in reaching their full potential as future healthcare providers.

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