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JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Oscillating devices for airway clearance in people with cystic fibrosis

Lisa Morrison, Jennifer Agnew
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014 July 20, (7): CD006842
25038719

BACKGROUND: Chest physiotherapy is widely prescribed to assist the clearance of airway secretions in people with cystic fibrosis. Oscillating devices generate intra- or extra-thoracic oscillations orally or external to the chest wall. Internally they create variable resistances within the airways, generating controlled oscillating positive pressure which mobilises mucus. Extra-thoracic oscillations are generated by forces outside the respiratory system, e.g. high frequency chest wall oscillation.

OBJECTIVES: To identify whether oscillatory devices, oral or chest wall, are effective for mucociliary clearance and whether they are equivalent or superior to other forms of airway clearance in the successful management of secretions in people with cystic fibrosis.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Disorders Group Trials Register comprising references identified from comprehensive electronic database searches and hand searches of relevant journals and abstract books of conference proceedings. Latest search of the Cystic Fibrosis Trials Register: 13 January 2014.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled studies and controlled clinical studies of oscillating devices compared with any other form of physiotherapy in people with cystic fibrosis. Single-treatment interventions (therapy technique used only once in the comparison) were excluded.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently applied the inclusion criteria to publications and assessed the quality of the included studies.

MAIN RESULTS: The searches identified 68 studies with a total of 288 references; 35 studies (total of 1050 participants) met the inclusion criteria. Studies varied in duration from up to one week to one year; 20 of the studies were cross-over in design. The studies also varied in type of intervention and the outcomes measured, furthermore data were not published in sufficient detail in most of these studies, so meta-analysis was limited. Few studies were considered to have a low risk of bias in any domain. It is not possible to blind participants and clinicians to physiotherapy interventions, but 10 studies did blind the outcome assessors.Forced expiratory volume in one second was the most frequently measured outcome. One long-term study (seven months) compared oscillatory devices with either conventional physiotherapy or breathing techniques and found statistically significant differences in some lung function parameters in favour of oscillating devices. One study identified an increase in frequency of exacerbations requiring antibiotics whilst using high frequency chest wall oscillation when compared to positive expiratory pressure. There were some small but significant changes in secondary outcome variables such as sputum volume or weight, but not wholly in favour of oscillating devices. Participant satisfaction was reported in 15 studies but this was not specifically in favour of an oscillating device, as some participants preferred breathing techniques or techniques used prior to the study interventions. The results for the remaining outcome measures were not examined or reported in sufficient detail to provide any high level evidence.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: There was no clear evidence that oscillation was a more or less effective intervention overall than other forms of physiotherapy; furthermore there was no evidence that one device is superior to another. The findings from one study showing an increase in frequency of exacerbations requiring antibiotics whilst using an oscillating device compared to positive expiratory pressure may have significant resource implications. More adequately-powered long-term randomised controlled trials are necessary and outcomes measured should include frequency of exacerbations, patient preference, adherence to therapy and general satisfaction with treatment. Increased adherence to therapy may then lead to improvements in other parameters, such as exercise tolerance and respiratory function. Additional evidence is needed to evaluate whether oscillating devices combined with other forms of airway clearance is efficacious in people with cystic fibrosis.

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