From the Journals

Pediatric bronchiolitis: Less is more


Why the slow adoption of guidelines?

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued bronchiolitis guidelines for babies to 23 months in 2014 and updated them in 2018. Why, then, has care in some centers been seemingly all over the map and counter to guidelines? “Both parents and clinicians are acting in what they believe to be the best interests of the child, and in the absence of high-value interventions, can feel the need to do something, even if that something is not supported by evidence,” Dr. Lipshaw said.

Furthermore, with children in obvious distress, breathing fast and with difficulty, and sometimes unable to eat or drink, “we feel like we should have some way to make them feel better quicker. Unfortunately, none of the medications we have tried seem to be useful for most children, and we are left with supportive care measures such as suctioning their noses, giving them oxygen if their oxygen is low, and giving them fluids if they are dehydrated.”

Dr. Diana S. Lee, assistant professor of pediatrics, Mount Sinai, NY

Dr. Diana S. Lee

Other physicians agree that taking a less-is-more approach can be challenging and even counterintuitive. “To families, seeing their child’s doctor ‘doing less’ can be frustrating,” admitted Diana S. Lee, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

Beyond that, altering practice behavior will need more than guidelines, Dr. Lee said in an interview. “Haskell et al. showed targeted behavior-change interventions improved compliance with bronchiolitis guidelines, but such change requires motivation and resources, and the sustainability of this effect over time remains to be seen.”

At Dr. Lipshaw’s institution, treatment depends on the attending physician, “but we have an emergency department care algorithm, which does not recommend any inhaled medications or steroids in accordance with the 2014 AAP guidelines,” he said.

Similarly at Mount Sinai, practitioners strive to follow the AAP guidelines, although their implementation has not been immediate, Dr. Lee said. “This is a situation where we must make the effort to choose not to do more, given current evidence.”

Dr. Michelle R. Dunn, Attending Physician in the Division of General Pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Dr. Michelle R. Dunn

But Michelle Dunn, MD, an attending physician in the division of general pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said the American practice norm already tends more to the observance than the breach of the guidelines, noting that since 2014 quality improvement efforts have been made throughout the country. “At our institution, we have effectively reduced the use of albuterol in patients with bronchiolitis and we use evidence-based therapy as much as possible, which in the case of bronchiolitis generally involves supportive management alone,” she said in an interview.

Still, Dr. Dunn added, many patients receive unnecessary diagnostic testing and ineffective therapies, with some providers facing psychological barriers to doing less. “However, with more and more evidence to support this, hopefully, physicians will become more comfortable with this.”

To that end, Dr. Lipshaw’s editorial urges physicians to “curb the rampant use of therapies repeatedly revealed to be ineffective,” citing team engagement, clear practice guidelines, and information technology as key factors in deimplementation. In the meantime, his mantra remains: “Don’t just do something, stand there.”

The study by Dr. Elliot and colleagues was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Knowledge Synthesis grant program. One coauthor is supported by a University of Ottawa Tier I Research Chair in Pediatric Emergency Medicine. Another is supported by a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Knowledge Synthesis and Translation and the Stollery Science Laboratory. Dr. Lipshaw and Dr. Florin disclosed no financial relationships relevant to their commentary. Dr. Haskell and colleagues were supported, variously, by the National Health and Medical Research Council of New Zealand, the Center of Research Excellence for Pediatric Emergency Medicine, the Victorian Government’s Operational Infrastructure Support Program, Cure Kids New Zealand, the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation, and the Starship Foundation. Dr. Lee and Dr. Dunn had no competing interests to disclose with regard to their comments.


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