Effects of nebulized salbutamol on respiratory mechanics in adult respiratory distress syndrome

Intensive Care Med. 1997 Jan;23(1):58-64. doi: 10.1007/s001340050291.


Objective: To determine whether nebulized salbutamol improves the respiratory mechanics of patients with adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). We also assessed the mechanisms that contribute to high respiratory system resistances during this disease.

Patients and setting: Eleven consecutive patients with ARDS without clinical evidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, admitted to a polivalent intensive care unit, and mechanically ventilated with Siemens Elema Servo C ventilator at constant inspiratory flow.

Method: Peak airway pressure (Ppeak), airway pressure immediately after end inspiratory occlusion (P1), plateau pressure (P2) and intrinsic positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEPi) were measured at baseline condition and then 5, 15, and 30 min after 1 mg of salbutamol had been administered via a nebulizer through the endotracheal tube. Partial pressure of arterial oxygen (PaO2), heart rate (HR) and mean blood pressure (BP) were monitored and minimal respiratory system resistances (Rrs, m), additional resistances (DRrs) and static compliance (Cst) were computed.

Results: Between baseline and post-salbutamol, we observed changes in Ppeak, P1, P2, PEEPi and Rrs, m. As there were no significant differences between values at the different intervals during post administration, the results are described comparing baseline and 15 min post-salbutamol administration values. We found a significant decrease in Ppeak (4.9 +/- 0.8 cmH2O). P1 (3 +/- 0.6 cmH2O). P2 (2.1 +/- 0.6 cmH2O), PEEPi (1.9 +/- 0.5 cmH2O) and Rrs, m (1.9 +/- 0.3 cmH2O/1 s-1); DR, rs decreased in five patients, did not change in four and increased in two. HR, PaO2 and BP did not change.

Conclusions: a) Salbutamol administered through the endotracheal tube by a nebulizer device lessens respiratory system resistances and airway and alveolar pressures, and therefore could decrease the risk of barotrauma and alveolar damage; b) high respiratory system resistances in ARDS have an increased smooth muscle tone component that can be reversible with salbutamol.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Airway Resistance / drug effects
  • Albuterol / administration & dosage
  • Albuterol / therapeutic use*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Pressure
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Mechanics / drug effects*


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Albuterol