The utility of albuterol nebulized with heliox during acute asthma exacerbations

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2002 May 1;165(9):1317-21. doi: 10.1164/rccm.9907035.


Heliox improves lung deposition of inhaled particles when compared with air or oxygen inhalation. We studied the spirometric effects of albuterol nebulized with heliox during emergency room visits for asthma exacerbations. Forty-five patients were randomized to receive albuterol nebulized with oxygen (control) versus heliox (n = 22 control and 23 heliox subjects). At baseline, demographics, outpatient asthma medications, vital signs, oxygen saturation, and forced expiratory volume in one second were not different between the two groups. Three consecutive albuterol treatments were given to each group. The heliox group had a significantly higher heart rate after albuterol nebulization compared with the control group. Following albuterol Treatment 1, the median change in forced expiratory volume in one second was 14.6% in the control group and 32.4% in the heliox group (p = 0.007). After Treatment 2, the results were 22.7% versus 51.5%, respectively (p = 0.007). After Treatment 3, the results were 26.6% versus 65.1%, respectively (p = 0.016). We conclude that during acute asthma exacerbations, albuterol nebulized with heliox leads to a more significant improvement in spirometry when compared with albuterol nebulized with oxygen. This is likely due to the low-density gas improving albuterol deposition in the distal airways.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Albuterol / administration & dosage*
  • Albuterol / pharmacology
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Emergencies
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / drug effects
  • Helium / administration & dosage*
  • Helium / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage*
  • Oxygen / pharmacology
  • Spirometry
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Drug Combinations
  • Helium
  • heliox
  • Albuterol
  • Oxygen