Comparing Nebulizers to Metered Dose Inhalers

Parents of children who suffer from asthma may be confused as to the efficacy of how medications for their kids are administered. One doctor may prefer nebulizers, another may tell them to use inhalers. Some doctors prescribe the use of one way of treatment for home and another for when away from home. Read on to find out more about comparing nebulizers to metered dose inhalers in young children.

Nebulizers: Time-Consuming & Expensive

Hospital admissions and emergency room visits are a common occurrence among very young children suffering from such reactive airway diseases such as asthma. Bronchodilation agents, used to treat these frightening health problems, almost always are administered by a nebulizer, which takes a significant amount of time and greatly increases costs.

Research studies that have been performed recently suggest that metered dose inhalers may give equal, if not even better, results with regard to the job of delivering bronchodilators than those results gained by nebulizers.

Medication/Placebos Used Two Different Ways

One study has compared the common asthma medication, albuterol, given by a metered dose inhaler with the same medication administered by a nebulizer in treatment of children aged two and younger. Treatments by the two methods were given every 20 minutes that consisted of albuterol administered by an inhaler (along with a spacer accessory), followed by placebo (no medication used) nebulizer treatment (and face mask), or with a placebo inhaler and spacer treatment followed by albuterol administered with a nebulizer and mask.

Measurements, known as Pulmonary Index (PI) scores, were taken 10 minutes after each that included recording information such as the rate of admission and the degree of saturation of oxygen. PI scores rate asthma severity as 0 to 3 (mild), 4 to 7 (moderate), and 8 to 12 (severe).

How the Methods Rated

Children receiving the medication via the nebulizer rated significantly higher on their PI scores than those who had been given the albuterol by the use of the metered dose inhalers. When the data was used as a control to determine the asthma severity in the children, it was discovered that fewer of them had been admitted to the hospital who had used metered dose inhalers.

Also, additional treatments and/or the use of steroids were received less by the metered dose inhaler users as well as a lower increase in heart rate. Differences could not be significantly detected, however, between the percentage of PI score improvements, saturation of oxygen, or in the percentage of children who experienced vomiting.

Inhalers May Take the Lead

The evident conclusion is that when albuterol is administered via a metered dose inhaler with a spacer, it may be as effectual as when the medication is given as treatment to children with asthma by a nebulizer and mask. The ease and efficiency with which medication can be administered with a metered dose inhaler as compared to giving medicines by the use of a nebulizer, however, may play into many caregivers decision.

Note: Don’t forget about the FDA mandated phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons from albuterol inhalers. THe effect on this study of the new environmentally freindly metered dose inhalers has yet to be determined. From the Orlando Sentinal:

    “The Food and Drug Administration has ruled that all CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, must be removed from inhalers by Dec. 31, 2008. But the change shouldn’t mean much to asthma patients. Doctors say the medicine that controls asthma will stay the same. The new versions simply drop CFCs and use ozone-friendly HFAs instead.”