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Pediatr Pulmonol. 2018 Feb;53(2):233-242. doi: 10.1002/ppul.23928. Epub 2017 Dec 21.

Hypertonic saline inhalations in bronchiolitis-A cumulative meta-analysis.

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Tampere Centre for Child Health Research, University of Tampere and Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland.
PEDEGO Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland.


We undertook a cumulative meta-analysis for the efficacy of hypertonic saline (HS) compared to normal saline (NS) inhalations or no inhalations as controls in bronchiolitis. We performed literature searches from PubMed, Scopus, and by hand search until 20 June 2017. We accepted published randomized controlled trials of HS inhalations in children with bronchiolitis aged <24 months. We evaluated the differences between treatment group with HS and control group without HS inhalations for the length-of-stay in hospital (LOS) by cumulative mean difference (MD) and in hospitalization rate by cumulative risk ratio (RR). We identified 18 studies including 2102 children treated in hospital, and the cumulative MD in LOS was -0.471 days (95% confidence interval [CI] -0.765 to -0.177, Higgins heterogeneity test [I2 ] 72.9%). The cumulative MD reduced in more recently published papers. In studies with the upper age limit of 12 months, the cumulative MD was -0.408 days (95%CI -0.733 to -0.083) without any important heterogeneity (I2  = 0%). If only studies with a very low risk of bias were included, the cumulative MD was 0.034 (95%CI -0.361 to 0.293) without any important heterogeneity (I2  = 0%). We identified eight studies including 1834 children in the outpatient setting, and the cumulative risk ratio for hospitalization was 0.771 (95%CI 0.619-0.959, I2 55.8%). In conclusion, HS inhalations offered only limited clinical benefits, though the differences between HS and control groups were statistically significant. The heterogeneity between the studies was substantial. Further studies are warranted with consistent definitions of bronchiolitis and comparable research frames.


bronchiolitis; efficacy; hypertonic saline; meta-analysis; normal saline


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