Characteristics of spacer device use by patients with asthma and COPD

J Emerg Med. 2008 Nov;35(4):357-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2008.01.012. Epub 2008 Aug 30.


Objective: Spacer devices (SD) in conjunction with metered dose inhalers (MDI) have been shown to be as effective as saline nebulizers for the delivery of beta-agonists. A preliminary study suggests that SDs are not consistently used. The purpose of this study was to investigate patterns of SD ownership and use to identify potential targets for future educational efforts to increase ownership and use of SD.

Methods: Cross-sectional convenience sample survey of patients presenting to an academic Emergency Department (ED) with a history of asthma/COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Informed consent was obtained. Survey data included demographics, association with a primary care physician (PCP), SD ownership, patterns of use, opinions of efficacy about SD and disease severity assessed by duration of asthma/COPD, prior ED visits, hospitalizations, and history of prior intubation. Patterns of use are described and univariate and multivariate analyses were used to identify factors associated with SD ownership.

Results: Of the 313 patients, 55.9% were female, the mean age was 46.0 years (standard deviation 14.7), 54.3% were white, and 143 patients (45.7%) reported owning a SD. A total of 36.4% reported a prior hospitalization for their condition and 24% reported a history of being intubated. Less than half of patients presenting with asthma or COPD exacerbation that reported owning a SD used it the day of presentation to the ED. Logistic regression identified having a PCP and a history of prior hospitalization for asthma/COPD as factors independently associated with SD ownership (odds ratio [OR] 1.7, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1-2.7 and OR 2.2, CI 1.3-3.5, respectively).

Conclusion: A majority of patients with asthma/COPD do not own a SD. These data suggest that there is significant opportunity for educational efforts directed at a broad range of asthma/COPD patients in hopes of increasing ownership and use of SD.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Metered Dose Inhalers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists