A review of the technical aspects of drug nebulization

Pharm World Sci. 2000 Jun;22(3):75-81. doi: 10.1023/a:1008786600530.


Nebulizers are widely used for the inhalation of drug solutions in a variety of respiratory diseases. The efficacy of nebulizer therapy is influenced by a great number of factors, including the design of the device and the characteristics of the drug solution. Incorrect cleaning, maintenance and disinfection procedures may change the nebulizer performance in time, whereas patient factors can influence the lung deposition of the generated aerosol. In this review the technical aspects of nebulization of drug solutions will be discussed. Two main parameters are generally used to evaluate the performance of nebulizers: the droplet size distribution of the aerosol and the drug output rate. The droplet size distribution and the drug output rate are basically determined by the design and user conditions of the nebulizer. A higher gas flow of the compressor in a jet nebulizer or a higher vibration frequency of the piezo electric crystal in an ultrasonic nebulizer, decreases the droplet size. The choice of the type of nebulizer for nebulization of a certain drug solution may initially be based on laboratory evaluation. The major part of the mass or volume distribution should preferably correspond with aerodynamic particle diameters in the range of 1 to 5 micrometer. The intended drug output must be realized within a reasonable nebulization time (less than 30 min). From the drug output only a minor fraction will be deposited in the lung. The relation between in vitro and in vivo deposition is only partly understood and to date it has not been possible to predict drug delivery only from in vitro studies on nebulizers. Therefore, studies in patients should be performed before a drug solution for nebulization can be recommended for clinical practice. The mechanical properties of nebulizers are likely to change during use. An average utilization time of nebulizers is not available. Therefore, the performance of nebulizers should be checked periodically. Patient compliance in nebulizer therapy is relatively low. This is partly due to the fact that, at present, drug solutions for nebulizers cannot be administered efficiently within a short period of time. More efficient systems should be developed. If possible, nebulizers should be substituted to more efficient systems, e.g. dry powder inhalers or metered dose inhalers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Humans
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers*
  • Particle Size
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations