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Aerosols in the Health Care Field


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Although you may not realize its presence, the aerosol plays an important role in your health!!!  The inhalation route has long been recognized to be a major pathway for disease transmission (e.g. flu, allergy).  In recent years, administration of medicine and diagnosis of health condition through aerosol delivery has also become an increasingly important field.  The deposition of the aerosol agents in the respiratory system depends on particle size (visit the Respiratory Deposition program to learn more about the topic).  Hence, the devices used to deliver the aerosol need to produce the agents with the desired particle size. The figure below displays the aerosol size and the corresponding working region (Move the mouse over the red dot for the working aerosol size).  

In this program, we’ll be learning various types of nebulizer for delivering therapeutic aerosols.  We’ll also learn how aerosol technology is used for health diagnosis. 

The effect of aerosol size on the area of preferential deposition within the airway

Aerosol Size
Work Region
> 10 µm

Nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal regions, e.g., nasal spray for perennial rhinitis, such as corticosteroid

5 to 10 µm
Central airway, e.g., mucokinetic drugs
2 to 5 µm

Oropharynx and large airways to the overall lower respiratory tract (large airways to periphery), e.g., bronchoactive aerosols

0.8 to 3 µm
Terminal airways and alveolar region, e.g., anti-infective drug pentamidine

Where should an aerosol of 1 µm deposit? How about 10 µm?

Valuable Reading:

  • Respiratory Care Pharmacology, 6th Edition, J. L. Rau, Jr., Mosby, Inc.
  • Egan’s Fundamentals of Respiratory Care, 8th Edition, R. L. Wilkins, J. K. Stoller and C. L. Scanlan, Mosby, Inc.
  • Aerosol Measurement, 2nd Edition, edited by Baron and Willeke, Wiley Interscience.