Bronchiolitis, the most common reason for hospitalization in children younger than 1 year in the United States, has no proven therapies effective beyond supportive care. We aimed to investigate the effect of nebulized 3% hypertonic saline (HS) compared with nebulized normal saline (NS) on length of stay (LOS) in infants hospitalized with bronchiolitis.
We conducted a prospective, randomized, double-blind, controlled trial in an urban tertiary care children’s hospital in 227 infants younger than 12 months old admitted with a diagnosis of bronchiolitis (190 completed the study); 113 infants were randomized to HS (93 completed the study), and 114 to NS (97 completed the study). Subjects received 4 mL nebulized 3% HS or 4 mL 0.9% NS every 4 hours from enrollment until hospital discharge. The primary outcome was median LOS. Secondary outcomes were total adverse events, subdivided as clinical worsening and readmissions.
Patient characteristics were similar in groups. In intention-to-treat analysis, median LOS (interquartile range) of HS and NS groups was 2.1 (1.2–4.6) vs 2.1 days (1.2–3.8), respectively, P = .73. We confirmed findings with per-protocol analysis, HS and NS groups with 2.0 (1.3–3.3) and 2.0 days (1.2–3.0), respectively, P = .96. Seven-day readmission rate for HS and NS groups were 4.3% and 3.1%, respectively, P = .77. Clinical worsening events were similar between groups (9% vs 8%, P = .97).
Among infants admitted to the hospital with bronchiolitis, treatment with nebulized 3% HS compared with NS had no difference in LOS or 7-day readmission rates.