Background: Inhaled hypertonic saline (HTS) improves quality of life and reduces pulmonary exacerbations when given long term in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). While increasingly being offered for acute pulmonary exacerbations, little is known about the efficacy in this setting.
Objectives: The authors examined the tolerability and efficacy of HTS use among adult subjects hospitalised with a CF pulmonary exacerbation and hypothesised that use of HTS would improve pulmonary function during the admission.
Design: Pilot retrospective non-randomised study.
Setting: Single tertiary care centre.
Participants: 45 subjects admitted to the inpatient service for acute CF pulmonary exacerbation in 2006-2007. A subset of 18 subjects who were also admitted in 2005 when HTS was not available was included in the comparative study.
Primary outcome: Change in forced expiratory volume in one second from admission to discharge.
Secondary outcomes: Change in weight from admission to discharge and time to next exacerbation.
Results: Mean age was 32.5 years, and mean length of stay was 11.5 days. HTS was offered to 33 subjects and was well tolerated for a total use of 336 days out of 364 days of hospital stay. Baseline demographics, lung function and sputum culture results were comparable in first and second visits. Use of HTS was not associated with an improvement in forced expiratory volume in one second (p=0.1), weight gain (p=0.24) or in the time to next admission (p=0.08).
Conclusions: These pilot data suggest that HTS is well tolerated during CF pulmonary exacerbation but offers no clear outcome benefits. It is possible that HTS may not have much advantage above and beyond intensive rehabilitation and intravenous antibiotics and may add to hospital costs and treatment burden.