The inhalation rate is important when patients use an inhaler. Dry powder inhalers (DPIs) require an inhalation rate >30 L min−1 whereas metered dose inhalers (MDIs) should be used at <90 L min−1. Within the setting of a routine clinic, we have measured peak inhalation flows (PIF) of COPD patients when they used a Diskus (SDSK), Turbuhaler (STBH), Handihaler (SHAND) and MDI. Subjects were then randomised into trained (VT) and non-trained (NT) groups. One hundred and sixty-three patients with a mean (S.D.) age and % predicted FEV1 of 72.5 (9.9) years and 47.8 (22.2)% completed the study. Of the patients, 4.9%, 14.2% and 57.0% inhaled <30 L min−1 through SDSK, STHB and SHAND, respectively and 59.5% inhaled >90 L min−1 with the MDI. Generally, the more severe the COPD, the slower was their PIF with all inhalers. The MDI PIF values in the VT group (n=84) post-training were significantly (p<0.001) slower but there was no change for the DPIs. Of the 55 VT patients inhaling >90 L min−1 through the MDI only 7 (p<0.001) inhaled too fast post-training. Pre-training 3, 15 and 46 VT subjects inhaled <30 L min−1 through the SDSK, STBH and SHAND and after training none, 5 and 26 did not inhale faster than this minimum required rate. Some COPD patients have problems achieving required PIFs through DPIs but training is useful to help some exceed the minimum required rate despite only small improvements. The patients found it easier to slow their PIF through the MDI
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