Nebulized bronchodilator formulations: Unit-dose or multi-dose?

Joseph L. Rau, Ruben D. Restrepo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Nosocomial infections linked to the use of multi-dose bronchodilator nebulizer formulations have been reported in the literature. OBJECTIVE: Survey American hospital respiratory therapy services to determine practice patterns, opinions, and awareness regarding unit-dose and multi-dose bronchodilator formulations. METHODS: A quota sample targeted 4 hospital size categories (0-100 beds, 101-200 beds, 201-400 beds, and > 400 beds) using a listing of general medical/surgical hospitals from the American Hospital Association. Hospitals were contacted via telephone to identify the director of respiratory therapy services, who was invited to complete a 29-item Web-based survey of their hospital practices and their opinions about and knowledge of issues with multi-dose and unit-dose bronchodilator formulations. RESULTS: One thousand fortyseven hospitals were recruited and 409 valid surveys were completed (completion rate 39%). The reported mean ± SD percentage of unit-dose nebulizer treatments was 80.2 ± 26.2%. Seventy-two percent (296) of respondents indicated having a policy and procedure manual that deals specifically with nebulized bronchodilator solutions, but only 107 reported having internal monitoring guidelines for compliance with those policies and procedures. Multi-dose bottles of bronchodilator concentrate were used with multiple patients in 77% of cases, and on average 9.7 ± 8.5 patients were treated with the same multi-dose bottle. Eighty-one percent of respondents reported that treatments from multi-dose bottles are prepared at the bedside. The length of time a multi-dose bottle was kept (after being opened) ranged from 24 hours (8%) to 1 month (11%), and only 3% of respondents reported following manufacturers' recommendations. In the respondents' opinion the chief advantage of multi-dose was cost per dose (84%), and the chief advantage of unit-dose was less risk of contamination (92%). With other factors (therapist time, cost of saline diluent for multi-dose concentrate, dose-error, and contamination) considered, 73% thought that unit-dose vials were more cost-effective. Three hundred thirty-six respondents (82%) thought that a sterile, low-volume (0.5 mL) unit-dose vial of bronchodilator concentrate would be useful, and 249 (74%) of those 336 respondents indicated that such a formulation would replace multi-dose bottles. Only 56% of respondents knew about the evidence regarding the risk of contamination with multi-dose bottles. CONCLUSIONS: Multi-dose bottles of bronchodilator solution are used in approximately 20% of nebulizer treatments, and without strict adherence to infection control procedures they are a potential source of nosocomial infection. A sterile, low-volume unit-dose vial of bronchodilator concentrate would be a useful alternative to multi-dose concentrate for modifying doses or mixing drugs in nebulizer therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)926-939
Number of pages14
JournalRespiratory care
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Albuterol
  • Bronchodilator
  • Infection control
  • Multi-dose
  • Nebulizer
  • Unit-dose

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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