Rationale: β₂-Adrenergic receptor agonists accelerate resolution of pulmonary edema in experimental and clinical studies.
Objectives: This clinical trial was designed to test the hypothesis that an aerosolized β₂-agonist, albuterol, would improve clinical outcomes in patients with acute lung injury (ALI).
Methods: We conducted a multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial in which 282 patients with ALI receiving mechanical ventilation were randomized to receive aerosolized albuterol (5 mg) or saline placebo every 4 hours for up to 10 days. The primary outcome variable for the trial was ventilator-free days.
Measurements and main results: Ventilator-free days were not significantly different between the albuterol and placebo groups (means of 14.4 and 16.6 d, respectively; 95% confidence interval for the difference, -4.7 to 0.3 d; P = 0.087). Rates of death before hospital discharge were not significantly different between the albuterol and placebo groups (23.0 and 17.7%, respectively; 95%confidence interval for the difference,-4.0 to 14.7%;P = 0.30). In the subset of patients with shock before randomization, the number of ventilator-free days was lower with albuterol, although mortality was not different. Overall, heart rates were significantly higher in the albuterol group by approximately 4 beats/minute in the first 2 days after randomization, but rates of new atrial fibrillation (10% in both groups) and other cardiac dysrhythmias were not significantly different.
Conclusions: These results suggest that aerosolized albuterol does not improve clinical outcomes in patients with ALI. Routine use of β₂-agonist therapy in mechanically ventilated patients with ALI cannot be recommended. Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT 00434993).
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00434993.