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What Are the Uses of Nebulized Epinephrine?

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  • Written By: S. Berger
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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Nebulization is a method of delivering drugs that involves vaporizing them so that they can be inhaled. Epinephrine, a naturally occurring compound, can be particularly effective when used in this manner. A variety of medical conditions may be treated with nebulized epinephrine, including asthma and bronchiolitis. Doctors may also administer this compound to newborn babies if their airways are blocked. Certain other medical problems may respond well to treatment with this medication, although epinephrine is meant to control symptoms, rather than curing the underlying condition.

Many disorders, such as asthma, can constrict the airways in the body, making it difficult to breathe. When a patient uses nebulized epinephrine for asthma, it expands the airway in the throat, and allows the lungs to collect more oxygen. Some people that do not respond to other asthma treatments, such as steroids, may receive a greater degree of relief from this medication. Research from the University of Alberta in Canada has indicated that individuals with severe asthma attacks may be able to experience improvements in symptoms around five minutes after inhaling nebulized epinephrine.

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Bronchiolitis, a condition affecting the lungs, may also cause breathing difficulties. A study conducted at California's Kern Medical Center in the U.S. found that nebulized epinephrine, when given to children hospitalized for this condition, improved their symptoms well enough to let them be discharged in many cases. It was not as effective as nebulized albuterol, another medication used to treat breathing difficulties, however. This form of epinephrine may be useful in bronchiolitis treatments for people that show an immunity to effects of albuterol.

Infants may sometimes experience breathing difficulties shortly after birth due to blocked airways. This is especially prone to occurring in newborns that have needed to have mechanized ventilation after the breathing tube is removed. When nebulized epinephrine is given immediately after the breathing tube is taken out, it can often prevent further ventilation problems, or allow breathing in cases of partially blocked airways.

Other medical conditions that lead to complications with breathing can potentially be treated with nebulized epinephrine. Emphysema is one such condition that can respond well to treatment with this type of inhaled medication. Generally, medical problems that have symptoms such as wheezing or coughing, a feeling of tightness in the chest, or shortness of breath will respond to this type of drug treatment. Inhaled medications like epinephrine tend to act quickly in the body, allowing them to potentially provide relief that is almost immediate.

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