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Terbutaline inhalation suppresses fentanyl-induced coughing

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To study the suppressive effect of inhalation of a selective β2-adrenergic bronchodilator terbutaline, and the effect of an intravenous anticholinergic, atropine, on fentanylinduced coughing.


We studied 131 ASA class I patients, aged 16–45 yr, scheduled for elective surgery, randomized into four groups. Fifteen minutes before bolus fentanyl (5 μg · kg−1, iv), patients inhaled either normal saline (4 ml; Croup 1, n = 30) or terbutaline (5 mg in 2 ml normal saline; Group 2, n = 34) via a jet nebulizer. After inhalation of normal saline, patients in Group 3 (n = 32) received sterile water iv instead of fentanyl. Patients in Group 4 (n = 35) were pretreated with atropine (0.01 mg · kg−1, iv) 10 min before iv fentanyl bolus. The onset, frequency and intensity of cough were observed immediately by an anaesthetist blinded to the study.


The cough frequency was higher in Groups 1 (43%) and 4 (46%) than in Groups 2 (3%) and 3 (0%) (P < 0.05). The onset time and intensity of cough showed no difference among groups. No truncal rigidity was observed in patients receiving fentanyl bolus iv. The blood pressure, heart rate, and peripheral oxygen saturation did not change in Groups 1, 2, and 3, while patients in Group 4 showed an increase in heart rate (25.5 ± 15.2%).


The inhalation of a selective β2-adrenergic bronchodilator, terbutaline, effectively inhibited fentanylinduced cough, whereas atropine, an antimuscarinic vagolytic, had no efficacy. Our results suggest that bronchoconstriction may underlie the mechanism on fentanyl-induced cough.



Étudier l’effet inhibiteur sur la toux induite par le fentanyl de l’inhalation d’un bronchodilatateur sélectif β2adrénergique, la terbutaline et d’un anticholinergique intraveineux, l’atropine.


L’étude portait sur 131 patients ASA 1, âgés de 16 à 45 ans, programmés pour une chirurgie non urgente et répartis aléatoirement entre quatre groupes. Quinze minutes avant l’administration d’un bolus de fentanyl (5 μg · kg−1, iv), les patients inhalaient soit du sol.phys. (4 ml; groupe 1, n = 30), soit de la terbutaline (5 ml dans 2 ml de sol.phys.; groupe 2, n = 34) par nébulisation. Après avoir inhalé du sol.phys., les patients du groupe 3 (n = 32) recevaient de l’eau stérile iv à la place du fentanyl. Les patients du groupe 4 (n = 35) étaient prétraités à l’atropine (0,01 mg · kg−1, iv) 10 min avant le bolus de fentanyl iv. Le début, l’intensité et la fréquence de la toux étaient observés immédiatement par un anesthésiste neutre.


La fréquence de la toux était plus élevée dans les groupes 1 (43%) et 4 (46%) que dans le groupe 2 (3%) et 3 (0%) (P < 0,05). Le moment du début et l’intensité de la toux ne différaient pas entre les groupes. On n’a pas observé de rigidité tronculaire chez les patients recevant le bolus de fentanyl iv. La pression artérielle, la fréquence cardiaque et la saturation périphérique en oxygène n ’ont pas changé dans les groupes 1, 2 et 3, alors que dans le groupe 4, la fréquence cardiaque augmentait (25,5 ± 15,2%).


L’inhalation du bronchodilatateur β2-adrénergique, terbutaline, inhibe efficacement la toux induite par le fentanyl, alo,rs que l’atropine, un vagolytique antimuscarinique n ’a pas cet effet. Ces résultats suggèrent que la bronchoconstriction pourrait être à l’origine de la toux induite par le fentanyl.


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Correspondence to Lui Ping-Wing.

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Ping-Wing, L., Chung-Hsi, H. & Ya-Churn, C. Terbutaline inhalation suppresses fentanyl-induced coughing. Can J Anaesth 43, 1216 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03013427

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Key words

  • analgesics: fentanyl
  • cough
  • sympathetic nervous system: beta-adrenergic agonists, terbutaline
  • parasympathetic nervous system: atropine