Efficacy and cost comparisons of bronchodilatator administration between metered dose inhalers with disposable spacers and nebulizers for acute asthma treatment

Sunil Dhuper, Alpana Chandra, Aziz Ahmed, Sabin Bista, Ajit Moghekar, Rajesh Verma, Cynthia Chong, Chang Shim, Hillel Cohen, Sonia Choksi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Scopus citations


Background: Despite demonstration of equivalent efficacy of beta agonist delivery using a metered dose inhaler (MDI) with spacer vs. nebulizer in asthma patients, use of a nebulizer remains standard practice. Objectives: We hypothesize that beta agonist delivery with a MDI/disposable spacer combination is an effective and low-cost alternative to nebulizer delivery for acute asthma in an inner-city population. Methods: This study was a prospective, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial with 60 acute asthma adult patients in two inner-city emergency departments. Subjects (n = 60) received albuterol with either a MDI/spacer combination or nebulizer. The spacer group (n = 29) received albuterol by MDI/spacer followed by placebo nebulization. The nebulizer group (n = 29) received placebo by MDI/spacer followed by albuterol nebulization. Peak flows, symptom scores, and need for rescue bronchodilatator were monitored. Median values were compared with the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test. Results: Patients in the two randomized groups had similar baseline characteristics. The severity of asthma exacerbation, median peak flows, and symptom scores were not significantly different between the two groups. The median (interquartile range) improvement in peak flow was 120 (75-180) L/min vs. 120 (80-155) L/min in the spacer and nebulizer groups, respectively (p = 0.56). The median improvement in the symptom score was 7 (5-9) vs. 7 (4-9) in the spacer and nebulizer groups, respectively (p = 0.78). The median cost of treatment per patient was $10.11 ($10.03-$10.28) vs. $18.26 ($9.88-$22.45) in the spacer and nebulizer groups, respectively (p < 0.001). Conclusion: There is no evidence of superiority of nebulizer to MDI/spacer beta agonist delivery for emergency management of acute asthma in the inner-city adult population. MDI/spacer may be a more economical alternative to nebulizer delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-255
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011



  • MDI
  • asthma
  • emergency department
  • inner city
  • metered dose inhaler
  • nebulizer
  • spacer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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