Nineteen children who presented for treatment of acute asthma symptoms were studied. They were randomized to receive either subcutaneous epinephrine 0.01 mg/kg (0.3 mg maximum) or nebulized terbutaline 1 mg in 2 mL normal saline. The drugs were administered using the double-blind method. Each patient received either subcutaneous epinephrine with concurrent nebulized normal saline or nebulized terbutaline with a concurrent subcutaneous injection of normal saline. Depending on the patient's clinical status, up to three doses of the same drug and placebo were administered. Pulmonary functions (FEV1, FVC, FEF25-75), heart rate, respiratory rate, and pulmonary index were obtained before treatment, at 20 minutes, and at one hour after the final treatment. Except for the baseline respiratory rate, the mean number of treatments, pulmonary index, heart rate, and respiratory rate (at 20 minutes and one hour) were not statistically different. Pulmonary functions were not significantly different at any time. The one-hour post-treatment pulmonary functions (percentage of predicted normal) for terbutaline and epinephrine were FEV1, 49.2 ± 18.4% and 49.4 ± 16.9%; FVC, 72.7 ± 23.4% and 62.7 ± 21.6%; and FEF25-75, 31.8 ± 18.6% and 39.0 ± 12.2%, respectively. The data presented support our hypothesis that terbutaline by nebulization is at least as effective as epinephrine in the management of children with similar degrees of pulmonary obstruction.
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