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Bronchodilators in critical illness 

Bronchodilators in critical illness
Bronchodilators in critical illness

Rajiv Dhand

and Michael McCormack

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date: 18 May 2022

Inhaled beta-agonists and anticholinergic agents, as well as systemically administered methylxanthines, are frequently employed to achieve bronchodilation in critically-ill patients. Inhaled agents are given by pressurized metered dose inhaler (pMDI), nebulizer, or dry powder inhaler. In ventilator-supported patients, aerosolized agents are generally only administered by pMDI or nebulizer. The ventilator circuit, artificial airway, and circuit humidity complicate the delivery of aerosolized agents, and there is a wide variability in drug delivery efficiency with various bench models of mechanical ventilation. Aerosolized drug by pMDI is affected by the use of spacer devices, synchronization of pMDI actuation and ventilator breath delivery, and appropriate priming of the pMDI device. The efficiency of aerosolized drug delivery by jet nebulization is also affected by device placement in the circuit, as well as by a number of other factors. Several investigators have demonstrated comparable efficiency of aerosol delivery with mechanically-ventilated and ambulatory patients when careful attention is given to the technique of administration. Appropriate administration of aerosolized bronchodilators in patients receiving invasive or non-invasive positive pressure ventilation produces significant therapeutic effects.

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