Skip Navigation Archive: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Archive: Agency for Healthcare Research Quality
Archive print banner

Emergency Diagnostic and Treatment Units (EDTUs) May Decrease Hospitalization Rates for Adults with Acute Asthma

This information is for reference purposes only. It was current when produced and may now be outdated. Archive material is no longer maintained, and some links may not work. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing this information should contact us at: Let us know the nature of the problem, the Web address of what you want, and your contact information.

Please go to for current information.

Media Advisory Date: October 13, 1997

Emergency Diagnostic and Treatment Units (EDTUs) may offer an alternative to inpatient hospitalization for adults suffering from a reversible disease such as acute asthma, according to a study conducted by Michael F. McDermott, M.D., and colleagues at Chicago's Cook County Hospital and the University of Illinois. The study, funded by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR), tested the hypothesis that selected asthma patients could avoid an inpatient stay by undergoing an intensive treatment protocol of up to 12 hours in an EDTU. Their findings, which appear in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, show that most EDTU patients had clinical outcomes equivalent to the inpatients, overall lower costs, greater patient satisfaction and an improved quality of life. The authors chose the term "Emergency Diagnostic and Treatment Unit" to reflect an evolution in these types of units, which more often are referred to as "observation units" or "holding units."

"This study demonstrates how scientific research can provide new solutions to practical problems. It also shows that quality improvements and cost effectiveness can occur simultaneously in the real world," said AHCPR Administrator John M. Eisenberg, M.D.

"Our research shows that more than half of the asthmatic patients that we now admit to the hospital could be treated just as effectively in EDTUs—at about half the cost," explained Dr. McDermott, who co-directs Cook County's EDTU and its Adult Asthma Clinic. In this study, the EDTU used a protocol with specific entry and discharge criteria. The EDTU patients also had to meet a prescribed schedule for therapy and response rates.

"These features, McDermott added, "ensure that the EDTU meets standards governing the use of observation units and makes this intervention reproducible." The protocol also is likely to be effective for patients with less severe forms of asthma, the study notes.

AHCPR is charged with supporting research that improves the quality of health care, reduces its costs, and enhances access to essential services. AHCPR's broad programs of research and assessment bring practical, science-based information to medical practitioners, consumers, and other health care purchasers.

For additional information, contact AHCPR Public Affairs: Salina Prasad, (301) 427-1864 (

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care