Acute asthmatic exacerbation is a common condition for pediatric emergency visits. Recently, dexamethasone has increasingly been used as an alternative to prednisone. This study aimed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of dexamethasone (DEX) against prednisone/prednisolone (PRED) in managing pediatric patients with acute asthmatic exacerbation.
Cochrane, Embase, PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science were searched for articles from their inception to August 2022 by two independent reviewers using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis (PRISMA) system. The review was registered prospectively with PROSPERO (CRD42022353462).
From 316 studies screened, seventeen studies met the eligibility criteria, with 5967 pediatric patients experiencing an asthma exacerbation requiring treatment with either DEX (n = 2865) or PRED (n = 3102). Baseline patient characteristics (age, sex, PRAM (pediatric respiratory assessment measure), previous corticosteroid and beta-agonist inhaler) were comparable between groups.
After treatment administration, the DEX group had fewer vomiting incidents (OR = 0.24, 95% CI: 0.11, 0.51, I=58%) and reduced non-compliance events (OR = 0.12, 95% CI: 0.04, 0.34, I=0%) when compared to the PRED group. Regarding emergency-department (ED)-related outcomes, there were no differences in hospital admission rates (OR = 0.83, 95% CI: 0.58, 1.19, I=15%), time spent in the ED (MD=-0.11 hours, 95% CI: -0.52; 0.30, I=82%) or relapse occurrences (OR = 0.67, 95% CI: 0.30, 1.49, I=52%) between both groups.
Although there were no differences between the DEX and PRED groups in terms of hospital admission rates, time spent in the ED or relapse events, pediatric patients receiving DEX experienced lower non-compliance and vomiting rates.