Although it is well known that intravenous administration of MgSO 4 as an adjunct to conventional therapy is effective in treating asthma attacks, the effect of nebulized MgSO4 as a vehicle for salbutamol has been less evaluated. The aim of this study was to compare the effects of nebulized salbutamol administrated through either MgSO4 or isotonic saline solution on the 'peak expiratory flow rate' (PEFR), other respiratory and clinical parameters, and hospitalization rate of patients suffering from moderate to severe asthma attacks. Twenty-six patients with asthma attack were enrolled in the study in a randomized single blind fashion. After obtaining initial peak expiratory flow measurements (PEFR) and clinical evaluation, all patients received 1 mg/kg corticosteroids and oxygen therapy and then either isotonic MgSO4 (2.5 ml, 6.3%)+salbutamol (2.5 ml) or saline (2.5 ml)+salbutamol (2.5 ml) through a jet nebulizer (group 1 (n=14) vs group 2 (n=12), respectively). The nebulizations were repeated every 20 min for the first hour and every hour for the rest of 4 h. The PEFR measurements and clinical assessment were performed after nebulization at 20th, 60th, 120th, 180th and 240th minutes. Patients were discharged when PEFR reached the target level of 70% of predicted. The baseline PEFRs and clinical parameters were similar between groups 1 and 2 (50.2±18.5 vs 44.1±13.9, respectively, p>0.05). The mean% increase in PEFR at different measurement levels was similar between the groups. When the treatment response was evaluated within the groups, group 2 showed statistically significant increase in PEFR (% of predicted) 1 h earlier than group 1 (60th vs 120th minute, p=0.003 vs p=0.007). The mean duration of achieving target-PEFRs was 105.7±72.1 min for group 1 and 118.3±96.7 min for group 2 (p>0.05). This study suggested that the additional usage of MgSO4 to nebulized salbutamol has no beneficial effect on the treatment of asthma attacks. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.