Effect of continuously nebulized ipratropium bromide plus albuterol on emergency department length of stay and hospital admission rates in patients with acute bronchospasm. A randomized, controlled trial

Chest. 1999 Apr;115(4):937-44. doi: 10.1378/chest.115.4.937.


Objective: To compare the outcome of patients with acute bronchospasm treated with continuously nebulized albuterol plus ipratropium bromide vs albuterol alone.

Setting: The Emergency Department (ED) at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.

Participants: Patients > or = 18 years old presenting to the ED with acute bronchospasm and a peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) of < 70% predicted.

Interventions: This was a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Subjects were treated with either a combination of albuterol (10 mg/h) plus ipratropium bromide (1.0 mg/h) or albuterol alone via continuous nebulization for a maximum of 3 h. Vital signs, Borg dyspnea score, and PEFR were recorded hourly. Primary outcome measures were improvement in PEFR, hospital admission rates, and length of stay in the ED.

Measurements and results: Data was analyzed for 67 subjects. The mean age (-/+ SD) was 47.5+/-18.8, and mean initial PEFR was 44.8+/-12.5% of predicted. The median length of stay for all subjects was 225 min, and 31% of all subjects were admitted. Patients given combination therapy averaged 6.3% greater improvement in PEFR compared with control subjects (95% confidence interval [CI], -15% to 27%. The odds ratio for admission with combination therapy was 0.88 (95% CI, 0.28 to 2.8). The median length of stay in the ED was 35 min shorter for those receiving combination treatment (210 vs 245 min; p = 0.03). However, when adjusted for initial PEFR, there was no statistically significant difference (p = 0.26).

Conclusion: Although the direction of all three outcome measures favored combination therapy, there was no statistically significant difference between ED patients with acute bronchospasm receiving continuous albuterol plus ipratropium bromide and those receiving albuterol alone.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Albuterol / administration & dosage*
  • Bronchial Spasm / drug therapy*
  • Bronchial Spasm / etiology
  • Bronchial Spasm / physiopathology
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Ipratropium / administration & dosage*
  • Length of Stay*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Prospective Studies


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Ipratropium
  • Albuterol