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Nebuliser: What Does it Do?

Nebuliser: What Does it Do?

, by Aussie Pharma Direct, 7 min reading time

Imagine trying to catch your breath while your airways are constricted, filled with mucus, or inflamed. That's the reality for many people with respiratory conditions like asthma, COPD, and cystic fibrosis, and navigating the complexities of these respiratory conditions often involves a myriad of therapies and management plans.

Now, you may have heard about nebulisers.

In discussions with your doctor or while researching treatment options, the term "nebuliser" likely surfaces as one of the most common devices recommended or mentioned. Let's be honest, just seeing a nebuliser with its tubes and mask can bring up more questions than answers. What does it do? How does it work? Is it even right for me? And why does it hold such prominence in respiratory care?

Our blog will shed some light on this essential medical device, breaking down everything from its basic functions to its diverse applications in managing respiratory conditions.

What are nebulisers?

Nebulisers are medical devices used to deliver medication directly into the lungs as a mist that can be inhaled. They're commonly used for treating respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, and other respiratory diseases.

How does it work?

Nebulisers convert liquid medication into a fine mist, making it easier for patients to inhale the medication into their lungs, where it can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream to provide relief or treatment. They're particularly helpful for individuals who have difficulty using inhalers or require large doses of medication.

A typical nebuliser consists of several key components:

  • Compressor - This is the main power source of the nebuliser. The compressor generates compressed air or oxygen, which is essential for driving the nebulisation process.
  • Tubing - The compressor is connected to the nebuliser chamber via tubing. The tubing serves as a conduit for delivering the compressed air or oxygen to the nebuliser.
  • Medication chamber - The medication chamber is where the liquid medication is placed. It may have a small cup or reservoir where the medication is poured or pre-filled medication vials that can be attached directly to the nebuliser.

The nebulisation process

Once the nebuliser is assembled and the medication is loaded into the chamber, the nebulisation process begins:

1. Compression - The compressor pressurises air or oxygen, which is then delivered through the tubing to the medication chamber.

2. Aerosolisation - Within the medication chamber, the pressurised air or oxygen converts the liquid medication into a fine mist or aerosol. This process is typically achieved through one of two methods: air jet or ultrasonic vibration that are utilised in two different types of nebulisers (which we’re going to explain further in the next sections).

3. Inhalation - The aerosolised medication exits the nebuliser through a mouthpiece or mask, allowing the patient to inhale the medication directly into their lungs. The fine mist ensures that the medication reaches deep into the respiratory tract, where it can be absorbed effectively.

What is a nebuliser used for?

Some of the common medical uses of nebulisers:

1. Asthma

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterised by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, leading to symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

How nebulisers help with asthma: Nebulisers are frequently used to administer bronchodilators, such as albuterol or levalbuterol, which help relax the muscles surrounding the airways, thereby relieving bronchospasms and improving airflow. Nebulised bronchodilators are often used during acute asthma attacks or exacerbations to provide rapid relief of symptoms.

2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD encompasses a group of progressive lung diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, characterised by airflow limitation and difficulty breathing.

How nebulisers help with COPD: Nebulised bronchodilators and corticosteroids are commonly prescribed to manage symptoms and reduce exacerbations in patients with COPD. Nebuliser therapy can help improve lung function, alleviate breathlessness, and enhance overall quality of life in individuals with COPD.

3. Respiratory infections

Respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection, can cause inflammation and mucus buildup in the airways, leading to breathing difficulties.

How nebulisers help with respiratory infections: Nebulisers are often used to deliver antibiotics, antiviral medications, or mucolytics directly to the lungs to treat respiratory infections. Nebulised antibiotics, such as tobramycin or colistin, are particularly effective in managing chronic respiratory infections in patients with conditions like cystic fibrosis.

The different types of nebulisers

The availability of different types of nebulisers is driven by the diverse needs and preferences of patients, as well as the varied clinical scenarios in which nebuliser therapy is employed. Factors such as patient preferences, medication compatibility, portability, treatment settings, and clinical considerations influence the choice of nebuliser. 

There are three common types of nebulisers:

  1. Compressor or jet nebulisers
  2. Ultrasonic nebulisers
  3. Mesh nebulisers

While both mesh nebulisers and ultrasonic nebulisers share similarities in being compact, lightweight, and operating silently, it's important to note the subtle differences between the two. 

At first glance, they may seem similar, but the key distinction lies in their aerosolisation mechanisms. Mesh nebulisers utilise a mesh membrane vibrating at ultrasonic frequencies to break down liquid medication into a fine mist, whereas ultrasonic nebulisers use high-frequency vibrations produced by a piezoelectric crystal for the same purpose. This difference is crucial because mesh nebulisers offer advantages in medication compatibility, making them preferred by patients who require diverse medication options for their respiratory conditions.

Looking for a lightweight and compact device that you can bring with you anywhere you go? Check out the e-chamber Portable Nebuliser here at Aussie Pharma Direct.

Advantages of nebulisers

Nebulisers offer several advantages in the treatment of respiratory conditions, especially in cases of severe respiratory distress:

1. Direct delivery to the lungs:

Nebulisers deliver medication directly into the lungs, bypassing the digestive system and ensuring rapid absorption into the bloodstream. This direct delivery allows for higher concentrations of medication to reach the target site, maximising therapeutic efficacy.

2. Effective in severe cases:

In cases of severe respiratory distress, such as acute asthma exacerbations or respiratory failure, nebulisers are preferred over inhalers or oral medications. The ability to administer high doses of medication via nebulisation can rapidly alleviate symptoms and improve lung function in critically ill patients.

3. Suitable for all ages:

Nebulisers are suitable for patients of all ages, including infants, young children, and elderly individuals, who may have difficulty using inhalers or coordinating inhalation manoeuvres. Masks can be used to facilitate medication delivery in paediatric and geriatric populations, ensuring effective treatment administration.


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