Airway Clearance Techniques

Thanks for checking out the first blog post in this series about respiratory interventions for Rehab Clinicians!

Airway Clearance Techniques (ACTs) are best practice for patients who are in acute exacerbation, sub-acute exacerbation, or are stable with obstructive lung conditions.
Long-term management of obstructive lung disorders including cystic fibrosis, COPD, bronchiectasis, and chronic bronchitis, and those with impaired cough including ALS, SCI, and post lung transplant should include instruction in ACTs.

Pulmonary Hygiene takes a team – reinforce regular performance of ACTs!

I have a special treat for you!

I created this a while back. All you MDTs out there will love it. This is a force progression (backed with evidence!) for applying, combining, and progressing airway clearance techniques. It starts out with the patient providing their own forces from the inside and outside, then adds the external forces you can apply as a part of your airway clearance techniques.

Brockway, K. (2017) Pulmonary hygiene toolbox – force progression tips
(Original content)

Tips for airway clearance techniques:

  • These are considered AGPs (Aerosol generating procedures)! Therefore, they require full PPE and an N95 mask per the CDC guidelines when performing with a patient with known or suspected COVID-19 (or any other viral infection of the lungs).
  • Always consider changing positions to utilize postural drainage positions to encourage increased secretion mobility.
  • When implementing oscillatory devices, keep in mind that not all oscillatory devices can be inverted or turned sideways and continue to function (such as the Aerobika). However, some can do this easily (like the Acapella).
  • Have tissues ready! My friends in ICU tend to use a cup. Secretion color and consistency matter and can tell you really important things!

Don’t forget about other tools in your toolbox!

  • Increase water intake: This thins secretions so they are more mobile.
  • Increase overall mobility: increasing mobility means increased respiratory rate and depth which natural mobilizes secretions.
  • Change positions frequently: utilizing postural drainage positions or just changing positions frequently throughout the day reduces consolidation.
  • Utilize Mucolytics: for very thick secretions and/or patients who are not mobile to improve secretion consistency for better mobilization and expulsion.

So that’s just the intro! Come back often to find all kinds of great techniques and information to update your skills and get you ready to practice in the cardiopulmonary setting!

More from the Pulmonary Rehab Toolbox…

Blow Out the Candles…

If there is any treatment that I feel like gets used in a cookie-cutter fashion, it’s pursed-lip breathing. As much as I hate seeing this technique used for every single patient that has shortness of breath, it does have clinical usefulness. So let’s talk about how to implement pursed-lip breathing properly based on patient presentationContinue reading “Blow Out the Candles…”

Postural Drainage

We’ve all seen that dreaded picture in our textbooks… All the human figures laying in so many different positions with pillows and tables tilted all over… and I very clearly remember thinking, “How on earth am I supposed to remember all of those?” Well, good news. You really don’t have to. It’s great if youContinue reading “Postural Drainage”

Spilling the Box of Pearls: All the Tips on Supplemental Oxygen Management

In my recent post on COPD management, I mentioned that there are some really important parts of supplemental oxygen management that you need to be aware of and consider in your practice. If you are assisting patients who utilize supplemental oxygen regularly, you need to keep these things in mind. You also may be workingContinue reading “Spilling the Box of Pearls: All the Tips on Supplemental Oxygen Management”


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Follow @DoctorBthePT on Twitter for regular updates!

15 thoughts on “Airway Clearance Techniques

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: