BACKGROUND--Gamma scintigraphy was employed to assess the deposition of aerosols emitted from a pressurised metered dose inhaler (MDI) contained in a microprocessor controlled device (SmartMist), a system which analyses an inspiratory flow profile and automatically actuates the MDI when predefined conditions of flow rate and cumulative inspired volume coincide. METHODS--Micronised salbutamol particles contained in a commercial MDI (Ventolin) were labelled with 99m-technetium using a method validated by the determination of (1) aerosol size characteristics of the drug and radiotracer following actuation into an eight stage cascade impactor and (2) shot potencies of these non-volatile components as a function of actuation number. Using nine healthy volunteers in a randomised factorial interaction design the effect of inspiratory flow rate (slow, 30 l/min; medium, 90 l/min; fast, 270 l/min) combined with cumulative inspired volume (early, 300 ml; late, 3000 ml) was determined on total and regional aerosol lung deposition using the technique of gamma scintigraphy. RESULTS--The SmartMist firing at the medium/early setting (medium flow and early in the cumulative inspired volume) resulted in the highest lung deposition at 18.6 (1.42)%. The slow/early setting gave the second highest deposition at 14.1 (2.06)% with the fast/late setting resulting in the lowest (7.6 (1.15)%). Peripheral lung deposition obtained for the medium/early (9.1 (0.9)%) and slow/early (7.5 (1.06)%) settings were equivalent but higher than those obtained with the other treatments. This reflected the lower total lung deposition at these other settings as no difference in regional deposition, expressed as a volume corrected central zone:peripheral zone ratio, was apparent for all modes of inhalation studied. CONCLUSIONS--The SmartMist device allowed reproducible actuation of an MDI at a preprogrammed point during inspiration. The extent of aerosol deposition in the lung is affected by a change in firing point and is promoted by an inhaled flow rate of up to 90 l/min-that is, the slow and medium setting used in these studies.
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