A randomized trial of nebulized epinephrine vs albuterol in the emergency department treatment of bronchiolitis

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004 Feb;158(2):113-8. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.158.2.113.


Objective: To determine if nebulized epinephrine is more efficacious than nebulized albuterol in the emergency department (ED) treatment of moderately ill infants with bronchiolitis.

Methods: Sixty-six patients between 0 and 12 months of age with new-onset wheezing, an antecedent upper respiratory tract infection, and a clinical score (Respiratory Distress Assessment Instrument) of 8 to 15 were randomized in a double-blind fashion to receive either 0.9 mg/kg of nebulized 2.25% racemic epinephrine (n = 34) or 0.15 mg/kg of nebulized 0.5% albuterol sulfate (n = 32) at 0, 30, and 60 minutes.

Main outcome measures: Primary outcome measures were clinical score and respiratory rate. Secondary outcome measures were room air oxygen saturation, elapsed time to meeting clinical criteria for ED discharge, hospitalization rate, and proportion of patients relapsed within 72 hours of ED discharge (relapse rate).

Results: Both treatment groups experienced a similar pattern of change in mean clinical score, respiratory rate, and room air saturation over time. There were no significant differences between the groups by these same measures at any time. The median time at which infants were well enough for ED discharge was 90 minutes in the epinephrine-treated group vs 120 minutes in the albuterol-treated group (P =.01). Sixteen infants (47.1%) in the epinephrine-treated group were hospitalized compared with 12 infants (37.5%) in the albuterol-treated group (relative risk, 1.25; 95% confidence interval, 0.71-2.22). Relapse rate was 18.8% (3/16) in the epinephrine-treated group and 42.1% (8/19) in the albuterol-treated group (relative risk, 0.45; 95% confidence interval, 0.14-1.41). Adverse effects occurred infrequently.

Conclusions: Although the patients treated with epinephrine were judged well enough for ED discharge significantly earlier than the patients treated with albuterol, epinephrine was not found to be more efficacious than albuterol in treating moderately ill infants with bronchiolitis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Albuterol / administration & dosage
  • Albuterol / therapeutic use*
  • Bronchiolitis / drug therapy*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Epinephrine / administration & dosage
  • Epinephrine / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Prospective Studies
  • Racepinephrine*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Racepinephrine
  • Albuterol
  • Epinephrine