Effect of mannitol and repetitive coughing on the sputum properties in bronchiectasis

Respir Med. 2010 Mar;104(3):371-7. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2009.10.021. Epub 2009 Nov 14.


Mucociliary clearance increases with increasing doses of mannitol and clearance is enhanced when mannitol inhalation is followed by repetitive voluntary coughing. The aim of the study was to investigate: 1) the effect of increasing doses of mannitol and repetitive coughing on the sputum physical properties; 2) if the changes in sputum properties can predict the efficacy of mucus clearance measured by radioaerosol technique in bronchiectasis patients. Sputum was collected from 14 patients, age: 63+/-6yr, who participated on the mucociliary and cough clearance studies at baseline, with mannitol (160, 320 and 480mg) and control (Daviskas et al. ERJ 2008; 31:765-772). Sputum was collected: 1) on the screening visit before and after mannitol challenge (635mg); 2) at the start and end of each clearance study after 100 repetitive voluntary coughs except on the control study (no mannitol or repetitive coughing). The sputum solids content, surface tension, contact angle and rheology were measured. Mannitol in association with coughing and coughing alone reduced the solids content, surface tension, contact angle and viscoelastic sputum properties (p<0.0001) and this effect, unlike mucociliary clearance, was not dose dependent. The control produced no effect. Total mucus clearance correlated only with the percentage reduction in surface tension on 480mg mannitol and with the reduction in solids content at baseline.

In conclusion: Inhaled mannitol and voluntary repetitive coughing improved the sputum physical properties in bronchiectasis patients and this effect was not dose dependent. Changes in sputum properties do not predict efficacy of mucociliary and cough clearance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Aged
  • Bronchiectasis / drug therapy*
  • Bronchiectasis / physiopathology
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cough / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mannitol / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucociliary Clearance / drug effects*
  • Mucociliary Clearance / physiology
  • Sputum / drug effects*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Mannitol