For healthcare professionals only

Research Article

Effect of intravenous infusion of salbutamol on ventilatory response to carbon dioxide and hypoxia and on heart rate and plasma potassium in normal men.

Br Med J 1976; 1 doi: (Published 14 February 1976) Cite this as: Br Med J 1976;1:365
  1. A G Leitch,
  2. L J Clancy,
  3. J F Costello,
  4. D C Flenley


    Intravenous infusion of salbutamol 10 mug/min in seven healthy subjects significantly increased their ventilatory responses to inhaled CO2 in both hypoxia and hyperoxia. These changes in chemical control of breathing are unlikely to be significant when the drug is used in severe asthma but may benefit patients with acute exacerbations of chronic ventilatory failure. The infusion also increased heart rate, which was most pronounced when hypoxia was combined with hypercapnia. The infusion produced an average fall in plasma potassium from 3-99 to 3-10 mmol/l, which was associated with an increase in plasma glucose and serum insulin, suggesting that this arose from a shift of potassium from the extracellular to the intracellular space. Routine monitoring of plasma potassium and the electrocardiogram is indicated when an intravenous salbutamol infusion is used to treat severe asthma as the drug may predispose to cardiac dysrhythmias.