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Pediatric Research Grant Funds Bronchiolitis Study Led by Dell Med Trainee

April 28, 2023

A newly developed pediatric research grant sponsored by the Department of Pediatrics at Dell Medical School and Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas was awarded recently to advance research and improve pediatric care.  

Colin Mervak, M.D., a Pediatric Emergency Medicine fellow at Dell Med and within Dell Children’s emergency department, has been awarded funding through this grant, and his research will evaluate the efficacy of albuterol in the outpatient treatment of bronchiolitis to assess whether it reduces return visits to the emergency department.

Mervak notes that bronchiolitis is a syndrome defined by viral induced inflammation of the bronchioles, the smallest air passages in the lungs, typically affecting children less than two years. The infection is incredibly common with around 287,000 visits annually at a total cost of over $1.7 billion in the U.S. alone. Symptoms can last upward of two weeks, which can lead to significant parental anxiety and frequent, often unnecessary, return visits to the emergency department.

Currently, most patients sent home from the emergency department are provided limited therapies, including fever-reducers, nasal saline drops and frequent suctioning. Mervak will have two randomly assigned groupings and compare a “standard of care” control group to patients prescribed nebulized inhaled albuterol, a medication used in the treatment of many lung diseases, including asthma, chronic lung disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Nebulized albuterol is a safe and commonly used treatment in bronchiolitis with evidence-based outcomes showing that it can improve symptom severity scores. Reducing symptoms at home could potentially improve parents’ perspective on disease severity, minimizing anxiety and subsequently decreasing hospital revisit rates.

If results show that nebulized albuterol can reduce emergency department visits, this could impact stress as well as cost to the family and medical system. If treatment groups show no significant difference, results can prevent future unnecessary prescriptions and associated costs.

We are proud to have Mervak and the emergency department team improving the care of our pediatric patients through research and evidence-based practices. Improving bronchiolitis symptoms, decreasing costs and reducing the stress involved with returning to the emergency department are all significant impacts on the children and families who we serve. We look forward to bringing you the results of this research study in the future.