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Alternate Methods of Airway Clearance for Cystic Fibrosis


People with cystic fibrosis can get lung infections and other respiratory problems because of the buildup of thick, sticky mucus that traps bacteria. Chest percussion and postural drainage are techniques that can be done at home to help clear mucus from the lungs. Here are some of the mechanical ways to help clear mucus from the lungs:

  • High-frequency chest compression vest. This inflatable vest receives high-frequency pulses of air from a generator. The vibration helps to loosen and clear the mucus from the lungs. This method can be done without the help of another person.
  • Positive expiratory pressure (PEP). A PEP device creates a constant pressure when you breathe through a mask or mouthpiece. This pressure keeps the airways open, so you can cough up the mucus.
  • Flutter. This device looks like a pipe and has a steel ball inside. When you exhale through the flutter, the ball moves and causes your airways to vibrate. This movement is thought to help loosen and clear mucus from the lungs.
  • Acapella device. This is a small, handheld device that uses magnetic force to help loosen mucus.

Talk to your doctor or respiratory therapist about these and other airway-clearance methods that you can use.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Catherine O'Malley, RRT - Respiratory Therapy
Last Revised June 9, 2011

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