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Efficacy of Bronchodilator Therapy in Bronchiolitis: A Meta-analysis

James D. Kellner, MD, FRCPC; Arne Ohlsson, MD, MSc, FRCPC; Anne M. Gadomski, MD, MPH, FAAP; Elaine E. L. Wang, MDCM, MSc, FRCPC
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150(11):1166-1172. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1996.02170360056009.
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Objective:  To determine if bronchodilators are efficacious in treating bronchiolitis.

Data Sources:  A search of bibliographic databases (MEDLINE, Excerpta Medica, and Reference Update) for bronchiolitis and albuterol or ipratropium bromide, or adrenergic agents or bronchodilator agents. Reference lists were also used.

Study Selection:  Randomized, placebo-controlled trials of bronchodilator treatment in bronchiolitis were selected by 2 investigators. Fifteen of 89 identified publications met the selection criteria.

Data Extraction:  Investigators independently abstracted data for 3 outcomes: clinical score, oxygen saturation, and hospitalization. Clinical score was measured as a dichotomous variable (score±improved) or continuous variable (average score).

Data Synthesis:  For primary analysis, data were pooled from 8 trials of children with first-time wheezing. The effect size for average score was −0.32 (95% confidence interval [CI], −0.54 to −0.11; P<.01), favoring treatment; the relative risk for score±improved was 0.76 (95% CI, 0.60 to 0.95; P=.02), favoring treatment. Bronchodilators had no effect on hospitalization (relative risk, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.47 to 1.53; P=.58), but co-interventions may have been administered prior to this outcome. The results for oxygen saturation were too varied to allow pooling of the results. Secondary analyses were performed on 4 outpatient trials of children with first-time wheezing, 7 trials in which only nebulized β-agonists were used, and on all 15 trials identified. The results were similar, but the data varied more.

Conclusion:  Bronchodilators produce modest shortterm improvement in clinical features of mild or moderately severe bronchiolitis.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150:1166-1172

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