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Emergency Medical Minute


Nov 24, 2020

Contributor: Aaron Lessen, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Contrary to many assumptions, meter-dose inhalers (MDIs) are as effective as nebulizers in pediatric and adult patients
  • Nebulizers are associated with higher rates of tremor, tachycardia; they cost more and are associated with longer ED stays
  • Though it may take some convincing, in a patient that is physically able, using an MDI with spacer appears to be the better option - and that was even before COVID.


Snider MA, Wan JY, Jacobs J, Kink R, Gilmore B, Arnold SR. A Randomized Trial Comparing Metered Dose Inhalers and Breath Actuated Nebulizers. J Emerg Med. 2018 Jul;55(1):7-14. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2018.03.002. Epub 2018 Apr 30. PMID: 29716819.

Brocklebank D, Ram F, Wright J, Barry P, Cates C, Davies L, Douglas G, Muers M, Smith D, White J. Comparison of the effectiveness of inhaler devices in asthma and chronic obstructive airways disease: a systematic review of the literature. Health Technol Assess. 2001;5(26):1-149. doi: 10.3310/hta5260. PMID: 11701099.

Dhuper S, Chandra A, Ahmed A, Bista S, Moghekar A, Verma R, Chong C, Shim C, Cohen H, Choksi S. Efficacy and cost comparisons of bronchodilatator administration between metered dose inhalers with disposable spacers and nebulizers for acute asthma treatment. J Emerg Med. 2011 Mar;40(3):247-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2008.06.029. Epub 2008 Dec 11. PMID: 19081697.


Summarized by Jackson Roos, MS4 | Edited by Erik Verzemnieks, MD


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