Archive for February, 2016

Spacer Devices

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Spacer Devices – A Little Extra Breathing Space

Some of you may not be aware , within the recently published ERC guidelines for first aid, it was recommended that for the treatment of asthma, first aiders should be taught various methods of how to administer a bronchodilator (a reliever inhaler). In the UK, this includes assisting a casualty in taking their prescribed medication via an inhaler (such as Salbutamol) and how to use a spacer device.


With the number of reported cases of asthma increasing year on year, it’s easy to see why the ERC have made these recommendations. However, with many people not being familiar with spacer devices or why they are recommended, here is a little more information about spacers and how their use can dramatically affect the outcome for the patient.

When a casualty is having an asthma attack, the muscles surrounding the wind pipes in the lungs go into spasm and constrict, making it extremely difficult for the casualty to breath.   Most asthma patients usually carry medication in the form of a reliever inhaler, which requires the casualty to take a deep breath at the same time as pressing down on the inhaler. This releases a dose of medication that, when it reaches the airway and lungs, will help relieve the casualty’s symptoms.

However, an asthma attack is an extremely traumatic experience for the casualty, making successful administration extremely stressful and difficult , this is reflected in several clinical studies that have shown that a large amount of the medicine often ends up on the inside of the mouth or throat, rather than in the airway and lungs where it needs to be.

This is where spacer devices come in. Spacers are large, empty plastic (or metal) containers that have a mouthpiece at one end, and a hole at the other end for the inhaler to be attached. Once the medicine is released from the inhaler, it is then stored in the large chamber of the spacer. As the spacer contains a one way valve, this allows the casualty to inhale the medicine at their own pace, thus increasing the likelihood of the medicine successfully reaching the airway.

Spacer devices have proved extremely beneficial in the past, with some reporting that the accuracy of the delivery of the drug to a patient’s lungs increased between 40-60%! Not only that, but with a large percentage of medication reaching the lungs directly, several potential side effects, including irritation and minor infections, can also be avoided. With someone in the UK having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack every 10 seconds, we are extremely pleased to hear
that spacer devices are set to have a permanent place in first aid!

News information taken from Qualsafe Awards our awarding organisation.
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