Inhalation therapy in patients receiving mechanical ventilation: an update

J Aerosol Med Pulm Drug Deliv. 2012 Dec;25(6):319-32. doi: 10.1089/jamp.2011.0936. Epub 2012 Aug 2.


Incremental gains in understanding the influence of various factors on aerosol delivery in concert with technological advancements over the past 2 decades have fueled an ever burgeoning literature on aerosol therapy during mechanical ventilation. In-line use of pressurized metered-dose inhalers (pMDIs) and nebulizers is influenced by a host of factors, some of which are unique to ventilator-supported patients. This article reviews the impact of various factors on aerosol delivery with pMDIs and nebulizers, and elucidates the correlation between in-vitro estimates and in-vivo measurement of aerosol deposition in the lung. Aerosolized bronchodilator therapy with pMDIs and nebulizers is commonly employed in intensive care units (ICUs), and bronchodilators are among the most frequently used therapies in mechanically ventilated patients. The use of inhaled bronchodilators is not restricted to mechanically ventilated patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, as they are routinely employed in other ventilator-dependent patients without confirmed airflow obstruction. The efficacy and safety of bronchodilator therapy has generated a great deal of interest in employing other inhaled therapies, such as surfactant, antibiotics, prostacyclins, diuretics, anticoagulants and mucoactive agents, among others, in attempts to improve outcomes in critically ill ICU patients receiving mechanical ventilation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Aerosols
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bronchodilator Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Critical Illness
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers*
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Aerosols
  • Bronchodilator Agents