Burden of disease and change in practice in critically ill infants with bronchiolitis

Luregn J. Schlapbach, Lahn Straney, Ben Gelbart, Janet Alexander, Donna Franklin, John Beca, Jennifer A. Whitty, Subodh Ganu, Barry Wilkins, Anthony Slater, Elizabeth Croston, Simon Erickson, Andreas Schibler, Australian & New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) Centre for Outcomes & Resource Evaluation (CORE), Australian & New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) Paediatric Study Group

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Bronchiolitis represents the most common cause of non-elective admission to paediatric intensive care units (ICUs).

We assessed changes in admission rate, respiratory support, and outcomes of infants <24 months with bronchiolitis admitted to ICU between 2002 and 2014 in Australia and New Zealand.

During the study period, bronchiolitis was responsible for 9628 (27.6%) of 34 829 non-elective ICU admissions. The estimated population-based ICU admission rate due to bronchiolitis increased by 11.76 per 100 000 each year (95% CI 8.11–15.41). The proportion of bronchiolitis patients requiring intubation decreased from 36.8% in 2002, to 10.8% in 2014 (adjusted OR 0.35, 95% CI 0.27–0.46), whilst a dramatic increase in high-flow nasal cannula therapy use to 72.6% was observed (p<0.001). We observed considerable variability in practice between units, with six-fold differences in risk-adjusted intubation rates that were not explained by ICU type, size, or major patient factors. Annual direct hospitalisation costs due to severe bronchiolitis increased to over USD30 million in 2014.

We observed an increasing healthcare burden due to severe bronchiolitis, with a major change in practice in the management from invasive to non-invasive support that suggests thresholds to admittance of bronchiolitis patients to ICU have changed. Future studies should assess strategies for management of bronchiolitis outside ICUs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1601648
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • infant
  • ventilation
  • bronchiolitis
  • intensive care
  • high-flow nasal cannulae

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