The mainstay of treatment for acute bronchiolitis remains supportive care. The objective of this study was to assess the efficacy and safety of nebulized hypertonic saline (HS) in infants with acute bronchiolitis.


Data sources included PubMed and the Virtual Health Library of the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information up to May 2015. Studies selected were randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials comparing nebulized HS with 0.9% saline or standard treatment.


We included 24 trials involving 3209 patients, 1706 of whom received HS. Hospitalized patients treated with nebulized HS had a significantly shorter length of stay compared with those receiving 0.9% saline or standard care (15 trials involving 1956 patients; mean difference [MD] −0.45 days, 95% confidence interval [CI] −0.82 to −0.08). The HS group also had a significantly lower posttreatment clinical score in the first 3 days of admission (5 trials involving 404 inpatients; day 1: MD −0.99, 95% CI −1.48 to −0.50; day 2: MD −1.45, 95% CI −2.06 to −0.85; day 3: MD −1.44, 95% CI −1.78 to −1.11). Nebulized HS reduced the risk of hospitalization by 20% compared with 0.9% saline among outpatients (7 trials involving 951 patients; risk ratio 0.80, 95% CI 0.67–0.96). No significant adverse events related to HS inhalation were reported. The quality of evidence is moderate due to inconsistency in results between trials and study limitations (risk of bias).


Nebulized HS is a safe and potentially effective treatment of infants with acute bronchiolitis.

You do not currently have access to this content.