Journal Article

Inhaled furosemide for relief of air hunger versus sense of breathing effort: a randomized controlled trial


Background. Inhaled furosemide offers a potentially novel treatment for dyspnoea, which may reflect modulation of pulmonary stretch receptor feedback to the brain. Specificity of relief is unclear because different neural pathways may account for different components of clinical dyspnoea. Our objective was to evaluate if inhaled furosemide relieves the air hunger component (uncomfortable urge to breathe) but not the sense of breathing work/effort of dyspnoea. Methods. A randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial in 16 healthy volunteers studied in a university research laboratory. Each participant received 3 mist inhalations (either 40 mg furosemide or 4 ml saline) separated by 30–60 min on 2 test days. Each participant was randomised to mist order ‘furosemide-saline-furosemide’ (n- = 8) or ‘saline-furosemide-saline’ (n = 8) on both days. One day involved hypercapnic air hunger tests (mean ± SD PCO2 = 50 ± 3.7 mmHg; constrained ventilation = 9 ± 1.5 L/min), the other involved work/effort tests with targeted ventilation (17 ± 3.1 L/min) and external resistive load (20cmH2O/L/s). Primary outcome was ratings of air hunger or work/effort every 15 s on a visual analogue scale. During saline inhalations, 1.5 mg furosemide was infused intravenously to match the expected systemic absorption from the lungs when furosemide is inhaled. Corresponding infusions of saline during furosemide inhalations maintained procedural blinding. Average visual analogue scale ratings (%full scale) during the last minute of air hunger or work/effort stimuli were analysed using Linear Mixed Methods. Results. Data from all 16 participants were analysed. Inhaled furosemide relative to inhaled saline significantly improved visual analogues scale ratings of air hunger (Least Squares Mean ± SE − 9.7 ± 2%; p = 0.0015) but not work/effort (+ 1.6 ± 2%; p = 0.903). There were no significant adverse events. Conclusions. Inhaled furosemide was effective at relieving laboratory induced air hunger but not work/effort in healthy adults; this is consistent with the notion that modulation of pulmonary stretch receptor feedback by inhaled furosemide leads to dyspnoea relief that is specific to air hunger, the most unpleasant quality of dyspnoea.

Attached files


Grogono, Joanna C.
Butler, Clare
Izadi, Hooshang
Moosavi, Shakeeb H.

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment\School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Biological and Medical Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery\Department of Nursing


Year of publication: 2018
Date of RADAR deposit: 2018-09-25

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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