To determine whether sputum clearance is increased by using nebulised saline or terbutaline as an adjunct to chest physiotherapy, a radioaerosol method (using technetium-99m labelled human albumin millimicrospheres) was employed in eight patients with stable bronchiectasis on four occasions, for comparison of sputum clearance with four different regimens. These were: control, with the patient resting in an upright position; chest physiotherapy, by the forced expiration technique with postural drainage; and chest physiotherapy following five minutes' inhalation of either nebulised normal saline or nebulised terbutaline 5 mg. Use of both nebulised saline and nebulised terbutaline immediately before chest physiotherapy gave a significantly greater yield of sputum than did physiotherapy alone, and terbutaline also significantly increased radioaerosol clearance from the whole lung and from regions of interest. The mechanism is unclear, but this method may provide a simple way of increasing the efficacy of conventional chest physiotherapy.
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