Most of the medications that are used for the most common types of lung disease are ones that you inhale. Over the last several decades the pharmaceutical industry has developed many new inhalers to deliver medications to the airways. Prior to these inventions the use of nebulizers was common place.
Nebulizers are medical devices that use air or oxygen, or a combination of both, to create a mist out of liquid medications so they can be inhaled by the patient. This type of therapy is used less often but still has a place in the management of patients with COPD and other diseases where inhaled medications are used. What is important in a nebulizer is its simplicity, reliability, and the ability to create a mist with the right particle size so the medications can reach the lower airways where they are needed.. Nebulizers are often prescribed when a patient has a very severe degree of COPD, where the breathing volumes are so low that the patient can no longer use an inhaler effectively.
Occasionally, nebulizers are used to assist with insurance costs. Keep in mind that not all inhaled medications are available for use in a nebulizer. The use of continuous delivery versus breath-actuated delivery must be considered and, again, this is sometimes determined by insurance. Nebulizer therapy is less convenient for the patient. In most cases it ties the patient to a power source and the nebulizer mouthpiece needs to be cleaned and occasionally changed on a routine basis.