Research Article

Oxygen as a driving gas for nebulisers: safe or dangerous?

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 288 doi: (Published 28 January 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;288:272
  1. K A Gunawardena,
  2. B Patel,
  3. I A Campbell,
  4. J B MacDonald,
  5. A P Smith


    Changes in blood gas tensions occurring when 100% oxygen or air was used as the driving gas for nebulised salbutamol were studied in 23 patients with severe airways obstruction. The patients fell into three groups: nine had chronic bronchitis and emphysema with carbon dioxide retention, seven had emphysema and chronic bronchitis without carbon dioxide retention, and seven had severe asthma (no carbon dioxide retention). When oxygen was used as the driving gas patients who retained carbon dioxide showed a mean rise of 1.03 kPa (7.7 mm Hg) in their pressure of carbon dioxide (Pco2) after 15 minutes (p less than 0.001) but the Pco2 returned to baseline values within 20 minutes of stopping the nebuliser. The other two groups showed no rise in Pco2 with oxygen. When air was used as the driving gas none of the groups became significantly more hypoxic. Although it is safe to use oxygen as the driving gas for nebulisers in patients with obstructive airways disease with normal Pco2, caution should be exercised in those who already have carbon dioxide retention.