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Purpose of review: The aim of this article is to discuss the various factors that influence aerosol delivery in mechanically ventilated patients and clarify optimal techniques for aerosol administration in this patient population. Clinical use of various inhaled therapies in patients receiving invasive and noninvasive mechanical ventilation is also discussed.

Recent findings: With optimal techniques for using pressurized metered-dose inhalers and nebulizers in ventilator circuits, the efficiency of inhaled drug delivery in mechanically ventilated patients is comparable to that in ambulatory patients. Techniques for enhancing inhaled drug delivery during noninvasive positive pressure ventilation are also being investigated.

Summary: Pressurized metered-dose inhalers of bronchodilator and corticosteroid aerosols are more efficient and convenient to use than nebulizers for routine therapy in ventilated patients. Nebulizers are, however, more versatile and are employed to generate aerosols of bronchodilators, corticosteroids, antibiotics, prostaglandins, surfactant, and mucolytic agents. Factors influencing drug delivery during noninvasive positive pressure ventilation are not fully understood as yet, and further work is needed to enhance drug delivery in this setting. Improvements in drug formulations and the design and efficiency of aerosol generating devices have led to increasing application of inhaled therapies in mechanically ventilated patients.

(C) 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.