Pharmacology Simulation Scenario: Respiratory Failure due to Asthma Exacerbation

Publication ID Published Version
7965 February 23, 2010 1


This is a manikin-based simulation case involving a 22-year-old male who presents to an emergency room with progressive shortness of breath due to an asthma exacerbation. During the initial emergency room treatment, he develops respiratory failure requiring intubation. This resource is one of 3 respiratory simulation cases developed as part of a 2nd year medical school pharmacology curriculum. These cases were developed to help medical students integrate basic science principles taught in traditional lectures with real life clinical scenarios. In this scenario, the learner needs to rapidly assess a patient with an acute asthma exacerbation, describe the mechanism of action of various pharmacologic agents used in the treatment of status asthmatics, and then determine the most likely physiologic responses after the administration of select medications. Finally, the learner must proceed to intubation of this patient, after pharmacologic therapy fails.

This simulation scenario has now been used by a total of approximately 180 2nd year medical students. The feedback we have received has been very favorable with many of the students requesting that we incorporate more simulation exercises into the basic science curriculum.


Beck J, Romo C, Denmark K. Pharmacology Simulation Scenario: Respiratory Failure due to Asthma Exacerbation. MedEdPORTAL Publications; 2010. Available from:

Educational Objectives

  1. Refer to the resource file for a discussion of educational objectives.


  • Intubation, Respiratory Failure, Physical Diagnosis Evaluation Pathophysiology, Rapid Sequence Induction, Bag Mask Ventilation, Asthma, Oxygen Consumption


  • Medical
    • Emergency Medicine
    • Internal Medicine
      • Pulmonary Disease


  • Knowledge for Practice
  • Patient Care
  • Practice-based Learning & Improvement

Professional Interest

  • Evaluation of Clinical Performance
  • Instructional Materials/Methods

Instructional Methods

  • Case-based Instruction/Learning
  • Simulation

Organ Systems

  • Respiratory system

Academic Focus

  • Basic Sciences
    • Pathology
    • Pharmacology/Toxicology
    • Physiology
  • Clinical Sciences
    • Clinical Exam

Intended Audience

  • Professional School
    • Medical Student

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