Introduction: Patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) suffer from chronic infection of the airways, and typical CF therapies include aerosolized medications. There is recent evidence that home nebulizers become contaminated by bacteria, causing concern that nebulizers may be a source of bacterial infection of the lower airways. A recent consensus document on infection-control issues for the CF population included recommendations on cleaning and disinfecting nebulizers.
Methods: We surveyed 39 patients and their parents, as well as 54 respiratory therapists, regarding their routine nebulizer use and maintenance practices.
Results: All the patients used at least one nebulized medication, and they used a variety of nebulizers, obtained from a wide variety of sources. Thirty percent of the patients used nebulizers well beyond the manufacturer's recommended replacement date. Ninety percent of the patients rinsed their nebulizers following use, but only 15% performed any routine disinfection. The respiratory therapists' nebulizer cleaning methods were widely disparate, with only 70% performing some method of rinsing. The respiratory therapists' self-report of cleaning methods and their instructions to patients regarding frequency of cleaning were so diverse that no standard is evident.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates that CF patients and their respiratory therapists should immediately address and improve their nebulizer cleaning methods and replacement practices. There should be more focus on teaching patients to regularly clean and replace nebulizers.