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Respir Care. 2014 Mar;59(3):340-4. doi: 10.4187/respcare.01904. Epub 2013 Aug 6.

In vitro evaluation of radio-labeled aerosol delivery via a variable-flow infant CPAP system.

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  • 1Respiratory Therapy, Neonatal Service Line.



Nasal CPAP is widely used in neonatal ICUs. Aerosolized medications such as inhaled steroids and β agonists are commonly administered in-line through nasal CPAP, especially to infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia. We hypothesized that aerosol delivery to the lungs via variable-flow nasal CPAP in an in vitro model would be unreliable, and that the delivery would depend on the position of the aerosol generator within the nasal CPAP circuit.


We used a system that employed a test lung placed in a plastic jar and subjected to negative pressure. Simulated inspiration effort was measured with a heated-wire anemometer. We used technetium-99m-labeled diethylene triamine penta-acetic acid as our aerosol. The nebulizer was placed either close to the humidifier or close to the nasal prongs in the circuit, and patient effort was simulated with a minute ventilation of 0.4 L/min.


Relative aerosol delivery to the infant test lung with the nebulizer close to the humidifier was extremely low (0.3 ± 0.4%), whereas placing the nebulizer close to the nasal prongs resulted in significantly (P < .001) improved delivery (21 ± 11%). Major areas of aerosol deposition with the nebulizer close to the humidifier versus close to the nasal prongs were: nebulizer (10 ± 4% vs 33 ± 13%, P < .001), exhalation limb (9 ± 17% vs 26 ± 30%, P = .23), and generator tubing (21 ± 11% vs 19 ± 20%, P = .86). Placing the nebulizer close to the humidifier resulted in 59 ± 8% of the aerosol being deposited in the inhalation tubing along the heater wire.


Isotope delivery from an aerosol generator placed near the humidifier on variable-flow nasal CPAP was negligible in this in vitro setup; however, such delivery was significantly improved by locating the aerosol generator closer to the nasal CPAP interface.


bronchopulmonary dysplasia; inhalational administration; neonatal respiratory distress; neonate; respiratory therapy

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