Is nebulized aerosol treatment necessary in the pediatric emergency department?

Chest. 2000 May;117(5):1309-13. doi: 10.1378/chest.117.5.1309.


Background: Infants and small children admitted to the pediatric emergency department (PED) with acute wheezing episodes (AWE) are currently treated with nebulized wet aerosol (NWA).

Objective: To determine the efficacy of MDI with Nebuchamber (Astra AB; Lund, Sweden), a nonelectrostatic spacer device (NESD), as compared to NWA in the treatment of an unselected population of babies and small children with AWE.

Design: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Forty-two children referred to the PED (median age +/- SD, 16 +/- 15 months) with AWE received either placebo MDI through a NESD (four puffs) and salbutamol 0.5 mL (2.5 mg) as a NWA (group I, n = 19), or salbutamol MDI and 0.5 mL of saline solution administered in the same manner as above (group II, n = 23). This treatment was repeated three times every 20 min.

Results: The respiratory rates (RRs) at baseline were as follows: group I, 45 +/- 11.2 breaths/min; and group II, 52.3 +/- 11.3 breaths/min (p = not significant [NS]). After the first, second, and third interventions, the percent fall from baseline of the RR were as follows: group I, 8.9, 13.1, and 17.9%, respectively; group II, 8. 6, 14.6, and 18.6%, respectively. There was no significant difference at any time in the results between the two groups. The clinical scores (CSs) at baseline were as follows: group I, 6.6 +/- 1.3; group II, 6.8 +/- 1.49 (p = NS). After the first, second, and third interventions, the percent fall from baseline of the CS were as follows: group I, 9.1, 17.9, and 23.2%, respectively; group II, 8. 6, 18.9, and 24.7%, respectively. These results, also, did not differ significantly at any time between the two groups. Hospitalization rate and side effects did not differ between the two groups.

Conclusions: We conclude that even in the group of unselected very young children (mean age < 2 years) with AWE, the use of MDI with NESD is at least as effective as the use of NWA. As opposed to data from an adult population, no plateau was reached in the dose-response curve using the above doses over time.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Airway Resistance / drug effects
  • Albuterol / administration & dosage*
  • Albuterol / adverse effects
  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / adverse effects
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Humidity*
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers*
  • Respiratory Sounds / drug effects


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Albuterol