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If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, part of your COPD treatment plan may include using a bronchodilator, a type of medication that helps open up the airways making it easier for you to breathe. Bronchodilator treatments for COPD are most commonly prescribed in the inhaled form using a metered dose inhaler (MDI), a dry powder inhaler (DPI) and/or a nebulizer.
Bronchodilator inhalers can be short acting, long-acting or a combination thereof; some may even contain a steroid. Whichever type of bronchodilator you’ll be using, becoming familiar with the medication’s delivery device will ensure that your breathing treatments for COPD are safe and effective.
An MDI is a hand-held device used to deliver a measured dose of medication in aerosol form directly into your lungs. MDIs have a pressurized canister of medication that fits snugly into a plastic tube called a mouthpiece. Although there are several, the most common type of MDI releases a specified dose of medication once you depress the canister into the mouthpiece. Sometimes, an external device called a spacer is used with the MDI to allow for better drug delivery.
To get the most out of breathing treatments when using an MDI, it’s important that you understand how to use it correctly. Follow the general steps below when using your MDI without a spacer:1
When using a spacer with your MDI, before you begin, insert the MDI into the open end of the spacer chamber opposite the mouthpiece. For Step 3, place the mouthpiece of the chamber between your teeth and seal your lips securely around it. Tilt your head back slightly, exhale all your air and depress the canister as you breathe in slowly and completely for 3 to 5 seconds. A horn-like sound coming from the chamber indicates you are breathing too fast and need to slow down. Continue with Steps 6 through 10 as you did with the regular MDI.
If you’ve ever used Advair, Spiriva or Flovent then you’re already familiar with the dry powder inhaler, or DPI. Similar to the MDI, a DPI is a hand-held device that delivers medication to your lungs. The only difference, is that the DPI doesn’t contain a propellant; it is breath-activated and contains only medication.
Here are the general steps for using a DPI:2
Many patients feel that they get better symptom relief from a nebulizer compared to that of an MDI or a DPI. A nebulizer is a hand-held device that transforms your COPD medication into a fine mist. If you use a nebulizer, your medication will be supplied medication in liquid form.
Most nebulizers are small and easy to use; some are so compact you can easily carry them with you. Nebulizers generally come with an air compressor that helps deliver the medication deep into your lungs. Nebulizer treatments generally take about 10 to 15 minutes to complete.
Here are the general steps to setting up and using a nebulizer:3
Author: Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN