BACKGROUND: Inhaled frusemide exerts a protective effect against bronchoconstriction induced by several indirect stimuli in asthma which could be due to interference of airway nerves. A randomised, double blind, placebo controlled study was performed to investigate the effect of the potent loop diuretic, frusemide, administered by inhalation on the bronchoconstrictor response to neurokinin A (NKA) and histamine in 11 asthmatic subjects. METHODS: Subjects attended the laboratory on four separate occasions to receive nebulised frusemide (40 mg) or matched placebo 10 minutes prior to bronchial challenge with NKA and histamine in a randomised, double blind order. Changes in airway calibre were followed as forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and responsiveness to the agonists was expressed as the provocative concentration causing a 20% fall in FEV1 from baseline (PC20). RESULTS: Compared with placebo, inhaled frusemide reduced the airway responsiveness to NKA in all the subjects studied, the geometric mean (range) values for PC20NKA increasing significantly (p < 0.001) from 130.3 (35.8-378.8) to 419.9 (126.5-1000) micrograms/ml after placebo and frusemide, respectively. Moreover, a small but significant change in airway responsiveness to histamine was recorded after frusemide, their geometric mean (range) PC20 values being 0.58 (0.12-3.80) and 1.04 (0.28-4.33) mg/ml after placebo and frusemide, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: The decrease in airway responsiveness to NKA after administration of frusemide by inhalation suggests that this drug may interfere with the activation of neurotransmission in human asthma.
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