Special problems in aerosol delivery: artificial airways

Respir Care. 2000 Jun;45(6):636-45.


Several factors interact in influencing aerosol deposition during mechanical ventilation. Among these factors, the artificial airway is a significant barrier for aerosol deposition. Earlier studies overemphasized the impediments created by the artificial airway to aerosol delivery, because the aerosol generator was placed adjacent to the endotracheal tube or was connected to it. When the aerosol generator is placed away from the endotracheal tube, the fraction that deposits within the tube is reduced and greater aerosol deposition occurs in the lungs. The type of aerosol generator used and the ventilator settings have a greater effect than the size of the tube on the amount of aerosol that deposits in the artificial airway. To minimize aerosol loss within artificial airways, an endotracheal tube of the appropriate size should be selected. "Priming" the tube with a few doses of aerosol before use decreases the electrostatic charge on its walls and may reduce aerosol deposition within the tube. Similarly, using a spacer with the MDI, and placement of the combination in the inspiratory limb at a distance of at least 15 cm from the endotracheal tube reduces aerosol loss within the endotracheal tube. Use of nebulizers that produce submicronic aerosols, and placing them closer to the ventilator instead of closer to the patient also decreases aerosol impaction in the artificial airway. Use of a low inspiratory flow (30-60 L/min in adults), higher duty cycle (> 0.3), and helium-oxygen mixture instead of air or oxygen are other measures to reduce aerosol loss in the airway and thereby improve aerosol delivery to the lower respiratory tract of mechanically ventilated patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols* / pharmacokinetics
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal* / instrumentation
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers*
  • Pulmonary Ventilation
  • Respiration, Artificial*


  • Aerosols
  • Bronchodilator Agents