Aerosol therapy is the delivery of medication during the inhalation phase of respiration. Medications such as bronchodilators, corticosteroids, mucolytic agents and antibiotics are commonly administered in this manner to treat asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and various other pulmonary conditions. Drugs are administered using aerosol therapy for the following reasons:
The ability to use a smaller amount of drug in a greater concentration.
The ability to deliver a drug to a specific site.
The ability to reduce the potential for systemic side effects.
Patients may use aerosol therapy for a few days or a lifetime, depending on their illness or disease state. A patient with an acute respiratory illness may use a single drug with a single device for a short period of time, whereas a patient with chronic respiratory illness such as asthma may use multiple drugs and multiple devices over an extended period of time.
The small volume nebulizer delivers drug via a fine spray or mist. The process requires high velocity airflow to break the liquid into small particles so that respirable particles are produced. The initiation of this process does not depend on the quality of the patient's inhalation efforts or manual dexterity. The process requires compressed gas - either a compressor nebulizer or an oxygen cylinder.
Patients in the home setting will most likely use a compressor, versus an oxygen cylinder, as a power source for the nebulizer. The basic model is a stationary, plug in type that uses a standard AC outlet.