Rev Mal Respir. 2010 Dec;27(10):1175-94. Epub 2010 Nov 19

Montani D, Cavailles A, Bertoletti L, Botelho A, Cortot A, Taillé C, Marchand-Adam S, Pinot D, Chouaid C, Crestani B, Garcia G, Humbert M, L'huillier JP, Magnan A, Tillie-Leblond I, Chanez P.

In this article a French working party critically review the international literature to revise the definition, pathophysiology, treatment and cost of exacerbations of adult asthma. The various guidelines do not always provide a consistent definition of exacerbations of asthma. An exacerbation can be defined as deterioration of clinical and/or functional parameters lasting more than 24 hours, without return to baseline, requiring a change of treatment. No single clinical or functional criterion can be used as an early marker of an exacerbation. Innate and acquired immune mechanisms, modified by contact with infectious, irritant or allergenic agents, participate in the pathogenesis of exacerbations, which are accompanied by bronchial inflammation. In 2010, mortality is related to progression of exacerbations, often occurring before the patient seeks medical attention. The objective of treatment is to control asthma and prevent exacerbations. However, many factors can trigger exacerbations and often cannot be controlled. The efficacy of inhaled corticosteroids has been demonstrated on reduction of the number of exacerbations and the number of asthma-related deaths. This treatment is cost-effective, especially in terms of reduction of exacerbations.