Effect of high-dose salbutamol on cardiac rhythm in severe chronic airflow obstruction: a controlled study

Respiration. 1994;61(4):214-8. doi: 10.1159/000196340.


Despite concern over possible adverse cardiac effects of high-dose beta-agonists there have been no controlled studies of the effects of such a therapy in patients with severe chronic airflow obstruction (CAO). We therefore studied 22 CAO patients (FEV < 1 litre) with continuous ambulatory cardiac monitoring. Patients received either nebulised salbutamol (5 mg) or saline each given 4 times daily for 24 h on 2 consecutive days, single blind, in random order. Supraventricular arrhythmias were common on both saline and salbutamol days (8 vs. 9 patients, p = NS), but none were clinically apparent. There were no episodes of ventricular tachycardia. Ventricular ectopic activity was highly variable but did not significantly differ between the two study days overall or between specific periods after nebulised salbutamol or saline. Serum potassium (mean) fell by 0.23 (SD 0.06) mmol/l in 10 patients after salbutamol. Baseline FEV1, PaO2, PCO2 were not predictive of arrhythmias or ectopic activity. While occasional adverse effects cannot be excluded, we conclude that high-dose salbutamol does not lead to any general increase in arrhythmogenic potential in severe CAO.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Albuterol / administration & dosage
  • Albuterol / therapeutic use*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology
  • Carbon Dioxide / blood
  • Electrocardiography, Ambulatory / drug effects
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / drug effects
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate / drug effects
  • Potassium / blood
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Tachycardia, Supraventricular / etiology
  • Vital Capacity / drug effects


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Albuterol
  • Potassium
  • Oxygen