A Cystic Fibrosis Therapy not for Kids

Saline therapy neither harms nor helps young children with cystic fibrosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Studies show that concentrated saline therapy provides some benefit to adults and older children with cystic fibrosis.

However, an NIH-funded study shows the same treatment is not effective when used by infants and young children.

In a clinical trial involving 321 participants from four months to four years of age, use of hypertonic saline resulted in no improvement in coughing, respiratory rate, height or weight and no decrease in the rate of acute lung problems requiring antibiotics.

"Always consider if a treatment for your condition is proven."

However, the treatment was met with no significant problems and minimal side effects.

The participants were studied at 30 cystic fibrosis centers in the United States and Canada. The young children inhaled either 7 percent hypertonic saline or 0.9 percent saline mist as a control, twice a day for 48 weeks.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. It results in a build-up of mucus in the lungs, airway and other organs that can lead to coughing, breathing problems and infections. The disorder is known to stunt growth in children.

In adults, saline mist loosens the mucus that builds up in lungs and may reduce recurrent infections. Recurrent infections, or pulmonary exacerbation, are thought to lead to lung damage and respiratory failure.

The difference in treatment outcomes is likely due to young children and adults having different origins of complications.

Children are more likely to develop viral infections while adults are more likely to develop bacterial infections.

Although there were minimal side effects for young children using the saline therapy, ineffective treatments can be burdensome for patients and their families.

Results of the study were published online in the Journal of American Medical Association and presented at the American Thoracic Society Annual Meeting in San Francisco on May 20 of this year.

Funding for the study was supported by NIH grants and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics, Inc.

The saline solution for the study was provided by Pari Respiratory and the control was provided by Catalent.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 24, 2012
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013