To determine if administration of albuterol by a metered-dose inhaler with a spacer device is as efficacious as administration of albuterol by nebulizer to treat wheezing in children aged 2 years and younger.
Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
Pediatric emergency department.
From a convenience sample of wheezing children aged 2 to 24 months, 85 patients were enrolled in the nebulizer group and 83 in the spacer group.
The nebulizer group received a placebo metered-dose inhaler with a spacer followed by nebulized albuterol. The spacer group received albuterol by a metered-dose inhaler with a spacer followed by nebulized isotonic sodium chloride solution. Treatments were given every 20 minutes by a single investigator blinded to group assignment.
Main Outcome Measures
The primary outcome was admission rate. Pulmonary Index score and oxygen saturation were measured initially and 10 minutes after each treatment.
The nebulizer group had a significantly higher mean (SD) initial Pulmonary Index score compared with the spacer group (7.6 [2.5] vs 6.6 [2.0]; P = .002). With the initial Pulmonary Index score controlled, children in the spacer group were admitted less (5% vs 20%; P = .05). Analyses also revealed an interaction between group and initial Pulmonary Index score; lower admission rates in the spacer group were found primarily in children having a more severe asthma exacerbation.
Our data suggest that metered-dose inhalers with spacers may be as efficacious as nebulizers for the emergency department treatment of wheezing in children aged 2 years or younger.