Timing of dornase alfa inhalation for cystic fibrosis

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 5;(6):CD007923. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007923.pub3.


Background: Inhalation of the enzyme dornase alfa reduces sputum viscosity and improves clinical outcomes of people with cystic fibrosis.

Objectives: To determine the effect of timing of dornase alfa inhalation on measures of clinical efficacy in people with cystic fibrosis (in relation to airway clearance techniques or time of day).

Search methods: Relevant randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials were identified from the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis Trials Register, Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), and international CF conference proceedings.Date of the most recent search: 22 February 2013.

Selection criteria: Any trial of dornase alfa in people with cystic fibrosis where timing of inhalation was the randomised element in the study with either: inhalation before compared to after airway clearance techniques; or morning compared to evening inhalation.

Data collection and analysis: Both authors independently selected trials, assessed risk of bias and extracted data with disagreements resolved by discussion. Relevant data were extracted and, where possible, meta-analysed.

Main results: We identified 99 trial reports representing 48 studies, of which five studies (providing data on 122 participants) met our inclusion criteria. All five studies used a cross-over design. Intervention periods ranged from two to eight weeks. Four trials compared dornase alfa inhalation before versus after airway clearance techniques. Inhalation after instead of before airway clearance did not significantly change FEV1. Similarly, FVC and quality of life were not significantly affected; FEF25 was significantly worse with dornase alfa inhalation after airway clearance, MD -0.17 litres (95% CI -0.28 to -0.05), based on the pooled data from two small studies in children (7 to 19 years) with well-preserved lung function. All other secondary outcomes were statistically non-significant.In one trial, morning versus evening inhalation had no impact on lung function or symptoms.

Authors' conclusions: The current evidence derived from a small number of participants does not indicate that inhalation of dornase alfa after airway clearance techniques is more or less effective than the traditional recommendation to inhale nebulised dornase alfa 30 minutes prior to airway clearance techniques, for most outcomes. For children with well-preserved lung function, inhalation before airway clearance may be more beneficial for small airway function than inhalation after. However, this result relied on a measure with high variability and studies with variable follow up. In the absence of strong evidence to indicate that one timing regimen is better than another, the timing of dornase alpha inhalation can be largely based on pragmatic reasons or individual preference with respect to the time of airway clearance and time of day. Further research is warranted.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Cystic Fibrosis / therapy*
  • Deoxyribonuclease I / administration & dosage*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiratory Therapy / methods*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • DNASE1 protein, human
  • Deoxyribonuclease I