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Respir Care Clin N Am. 1996 Jun;2(2):323-45.

Noninvasive clearance of airway secretions.

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Pediatric Pulmonary and Cystic Fibrosis Center, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, USA.


Airway clearance techniques are indicated for specific diseases that have known clearance abnormalities (Table 2). Murray and others have commented that such techniques are required only for patients with a daily sputum production of greater than 30 mL. The authors have observed that patients with diseases known to cause clearance abnormalities can have sputum clearance with some techniques, such as positive expiratory pressure, autogenic drainage, and active cycle of breathing techniques, when PDPV has not been effective. Hasani et al has shown that use of the forced exhalatory technique in patients with nonproductive cough still resulted in movement of secretions proximally from all regions of the lung in patients with airway obstruction. It is therefore reasonable to consider airway clearance techniques for any patient who has a disease known to alter mucous clearance, including CF, dyskinetic cilia syndromes, and bronchiectasis from any cause. Patients with atelectasis from mucous plugs and hypersecretory states, such as asthma and chronic bronchitis, patients with pain secondary to surgical procedures, and patients with neuromuscular disease, weak cough, and abnormal patency of the airway may also benefit from the application of airway clearance techniques. Infants and children up to 3 years of age with airway clearance problems need to be treated with PDPV. Manual percussion with hands alone or a flexible face mask or cup and small mechanical vibrator/percussors, such as the ultrasonic devices, can be used. The intrapulmonary percussive ventilator shows growing promise in this area. The high-frequency oscillator is not supplied with vests of appropriate sizes for tiny babies and has not been studied in this group. Young patients with neuromuscular disease may require assisted ventilation and airway oscillations can be applied. CPAP alone has been shown to improve achievable flow rates that will increase air-liquid interactions for patients with these diseases or airway malacia. Use of positive pressure to maintain airway patency in these children allows cephalad clearance of secretions. Patients with segmental atelectasis, particularly related to asthma, may benefit from intrapulmonary percussive ventilator, positive expiratory pressure, or PDPV. Prevention of postoperative atelectasis is particularly well suited to positive expiratory pressure, which is not as painful as techniques using oscillations. Neurologically abnormal patients who are unable to cooperate with any active method are also treated using intrapulmonary percussive ventilator, PDPV, and suctioning, if necessary. Musculoskeletal abnormalities, muscular dystrophies, myasthenia gravis, poliomyelitis, or other similar diseases require stabilization of bellows function. Optimizing ventilation in patients with such abnormalities may require positive pressure ventilation either during sleep or continuously. Externally applied pressure, such as with the In-Exsufflator or the cyclically inflated pneumatic belt, can augment the patient's own efforts and is sometimes helpful. Normalizing the vital capacity and functional residual capacity typically helps to improve the ability to cough and clear secretions. Assisted cough devices or maneuvers are described in other papers by Bach and Hill. Not all patients who have weak muscles require nocturnal or continuous support, and may benefit from positive expiratory pressure mask treatments. Further studies are sorely needed for this population. Long-term controlled trials are urgently needed to help establish the best types of treatment for patients with CF and bronchiectasis. Such studies will become more complicated by the introduction of new treatments, such as DNase and other therapies that alter secretions, and may begin to change mucociliary or cough clearance. The selection of appropriate outcome measures is central to studying these questions, and it is unclear which are the most important. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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