A randomised, double blind, placebo controlled crossover trial of high dose nebulised ipratropium was carried out in 10 asthmatic patients with documented nocturnal bronchoconstriction. Patients received nebulised saline or ipratropium 1 mg at 10 pm and 2 am on two nights. Absolute peak flow (PEF) rates were higher throughout the night after the patients had received ipratropium (at 2 am, for example, mean (SEM) PEF was 353 after ipratropium and 285 l/min after placebo). The fall in PEF overnight, however, was similar with ipratropium and placebo. Patients were given a further 1 mg nebulised ipratropium at 6 am on both nights. There was a significant overnight fall in PEF on the ipratropium night even when comparisons were made between the times that maximal cholinergic blockade would be expected, PEF falling between 11.30 pm and 7.30 am from 429 to 369 l/min. The percentage increase in PEF, though not the absolute values, was greater after ipratropium at 6 am than at 10 pm. These results confirm that ipratropium raises PEF throughout the night in asthmatic patients, but suggest that nocturnal bronchoconstriction is not due solely to an increase in airway cholinergic activity at night.
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