Nebulizer Terminology

Table 1 – Nebulizer Terminology

Respirable dose 

The most important trait relating to nebulizer performance.  Respirable dose is a function of the output of the device and the size of the droplets.  The ideal droplet size is 2-5 micrometers for alveolar deposition

Nebulization time

The time needed to completely aerosolize the medication.  Large volumes and low flow rates increase nebulization time.  Most of the nebulized dose is delivered in the first 5 minutes for most devices

Dead volume

The space in which medication is trapped in the nebulizer and cannot be delivered to the lungs.  This is typically 1-3 ml.  Increasing fill volume to 3-6ml reduces dead space but consequently increases nebulization time.  Maximum fill volume is manufacturer dependant

Gas density

Effects absorption.  Using heliox (helium and oxygen) significantly improves flow rates.  Increasing the driving gas flow rate increases nebulizer output and reduces particle size.  Flow rates of 6-8 ml/min provide optimal drug delivery.  This can be done with a compressor or compressed oxygen for jet nebulizers


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