Dornase alpha compared to hypertonic saline for lung atelectasis in critically ill patients

J Aerosol Med Pulm Drug Deliv. 2012 Dec;25(6):342-8. doi: 10.1089/jamp.2011.0954. Epub 2012 Mar 13.


Background: Despite the lack of randomized trials, nebulized Dornase alpha and hypertonic saline are used empirically to treat atelectasis in mechanically ventilated patients. Our objective was to determine the clinical and radiological efficacy of these medications as an adjunct to standard therapy in critically ill patients.

Methods: Mechanically ventilated patients with new onset (<48 h) lobar or multilobar atelectasis were randomized into three groups: nebulized Dornase alpha, hypertonic (7%) saline or normal saline every 12 h. All patients received standard therapy, including chest percussion therapy, kinetic therapy, and bronchodilators. The primary endpoint was the change in the daily chest X-ray atelectasis score.

Results: A total of 33 patients met the inclusion criteria and were randomized equally into the three groups. Patients in the Dornase alpha group showed a reduction of 2.18±1.33 points in the CXR score from baseline to day 7, whereas patients in the normal saline group had a reduction of 1.00±1.79 points, and patients in the hypertonic saline group showed a score reduction of 1.09±1.51 points. Pairwise comparison of the mean change of the CXR score showed no statistical difference between hypertonic saline, normal saline, and dornase alpha. Airway pressures as well as oxygenation, expressed as PaO(2)/F(I)O(2) and time to extubation also were similar among groups. During the study period the rate of extubation was 54% (6/11), 45% (5/11), and 63% (7/11) in the normal saline, hypertonic saline, and Dornase alpha groups, respectively (p=0.09). No treatment related complications were observed.

Conclusions: There was no significant improvement in the chest X-ray atelectasis score in mechanically ventilated patients with new onset atelectasis who were nebulized with Dornase alpha twice a day. Hypertonic saline was no more effective than normal saline in this population. Larger randomized control trials are needed to confirm our results.

Trial registration: NCT00671723.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Critical Illness
  • Deoxyribonuclease I / administration & dosage
  • Deoxyribonuclease I / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Atelectasis / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Atelectasis / drug therapy*
  • Pulmonary Atelectasis / pathology
  • Radiography
  • Recombinant Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic / administration & dosage
  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic / therapeutic use*
  • Sodium Chloride / administration & dosage
  • Sodium Chloride / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Saline Solution, Hypertonic
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Deoxyribonuclease I
  • dornase alfa
  • Oxygen

Associated data