A study was undertaken to determine the extent of morbidity associated with asthma and to audit the management of asthma in two out-patient clinics of two district hospitals. Patients were recruited for the study during a 3-month period from December 1990 to February 1991. Seventy asthmatic patients were studied. Eighty-six percent of the patients had their sleep disturbed by asthma, 77% took daily medication regularly, 63% felt that their activities were restricted by asthma, 60% had at least one acute exacerbation in the preceding six months. Of those who had their peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) measured, 40% had a PEFR below 50% predicted, and only 11% had normal PEFR (greater than 80% predicted). The morbidity of asthma was thus considerable. On the other hand, the drug treatment of these asthmatics was grossly inadequate. They were prescribed on average 2.1 item of drugs, which for most patients comprised an oral beta agonist and a theophylline. Only 43% of the patients received inhaler therapy, but no patients were given steroids, inhaled or oral. The drug treatment was unrelated to the severity of patients' asthma. Further, objective measurement of severity was under-used in the assessment of asthma, only 8.5% of patients ever had their PEFR recorded. This study has found that asthma is poorly managed in out-patient clinics. We need to improve the training of doctors in the optimal management of asthma.
Study site: General outpatient clinics, district hospitals, Pahang, Malaysia