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Status Asthmaticus Differential Diagnoses

  • Author: Constantine K Saadeh, MD; Chief Editor: Ryland P Byrd, Jr, MD  more...
Updated: Dec 17, 2014

Diagnostic Considerations

Status asthmaticus can be misdiagnosed when wheezing occurs from an acute cause other than asthma. Some of these alternative causes of wheezing are discussed below.

Extrinsic compression

Airways can be compressed from vascular structures, such as vascular rings, lymphadenopathy, or tumors.

Congestive heart failure

Airway edema may cause wheezing in CHF. In addition, vascular compression may compress the airways during systole with cardiac ejection, resulting in a pulsatile wheeze that corresponds to the heart rate. This is sometimes erroneously referred to as cardiac asthma.

Differential Diagnoses

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Constantine K Saadeh, MD President, Allergy ARTS, LLP; Principal Investigator, Amarillo Center for Clinical Research, Ltd

Constantine K Saadeh, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, American College of Rheumatology, American Medical Association, Southern Medical Association, Texas Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Ryland P Byrd, Jr, MD Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine, James H Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University

Ryland P Byrd, Jr, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Michael R Bye, MD Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; Attending Physician, Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York Presbyterian, Columbia University Medical Center

Michael R Bye, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Chest Physicians, and American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

G Patricia Cantwell, MD, FCCM Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Chief, Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, University of Miami, Leonard M Miller School of Medicine; Medical Director, Palliative Care Team, Director, Pediatric Critical Care Transport, Holtz Children's Hospital, Jackson Memorial Medical Center; Medical Manager, FEMA, Urban Search and Rescue, South Florida, Task Force 2; Pediatric Medical Director, Tilli Kids – Pediatric Initiative, Division of Hospice Care Southeast Florida, Inc

G Patricia Cantwell, MD, FCCM is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, American Trauma Society, National Association of EMS Physicians, Society of Critical Care Medicine, and Wilderness Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Barry J Evans, MD Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Temple University Medical School; Director of Pediatric Critical Care and Pulmonology, Associate Chair for Pediatric Education, Temple University Children's Medical Center

Barry J Evans, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Chest Physicians, American Thoracic Society, and Society of Critical Care Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Michael Goldman Professor of Internal Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Helen M Hollingsworth, MD Director, Adult Asthma and Allergy Services, Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care, Boston Medical Center

Helen M Hollingsworth, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, American College of Chest Physicians, American Thoracic Society, and Massachusetts Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Jan Malacara, PA-C Consulting Staff, Allergy ARTS, LLP

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Adam J Schwarz, MD Consulting Staff, Critical Care Division, Pediatric Subspecialty Faculty, Children's Hospital of Orange County

Adam J Schwarz, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics and Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Salary Employment

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Figure depicting antigen presentation by the dendritic cell, with the lymphocyte and cytokine response leading to airway inflammation and asthma symptoms.
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