Output from jet nebulisers is calibrated traditionally by weighing them before and after nebulisation, but the assumption that the weight difference is a close measure of aerosol generation could be invalidated by the concomitant process of evaporation. A method has been developed for measuring aerosol output directly by using a solute (fluoride) tracer and aerosol impaction, and this has been compared with the traditional weight loss method for two Wright, six Turbo, and four Micro-Cirrus jet nebulisers and two Microinhaler ultrasonic nebulisers. The weight loss method overestimated true aerosol output for all jet nebulisers. The mean aerosol content, expressed as a percentage of the total weight loss, varied from as little as 15% for the Wright jet nebulisers to 54% (range 45-61%) for the Turbo and Micro-Cirrus jet nebulisers under the operating conditions used. In contrast, there was no discrepancy between weight loss and aerosol output for the ultrasonic nebulisers. These findings, along with evidence of both concentrating and cooling effects from jet nebulisation, confirm that total output from jet nebulisers contains two distinct fractions, vapour and aerosol. The vapour fraction, but not the aerosol fraction, was greatly influenced by reservoir temperature within the nebuliser; so the ratio of aerosol output to total weight loss varied considerably with temperature. It is concluded that weight loss is an inappropriate method of calibrating jet nebuliser aerosol output, and that this should be measured directly.
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