Chest physical therapy in patients with acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis: effectiveness of three methods

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2000 May;81(5):558-60. doi: 10.1016/s0003-9993(00)90034-0.


Objective: To compare the short-term effects of postural drainage (PD), oscillating positive expiratory pressure (using the FLUTTER device), and expiration with the glottis open in the lateral posture (ELTGOL) on oxygen saturation, pulmonary function, and sputum production in patients with an acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis.

Design: A prospective, randomized study.

Setting: A clinical ward.

Patients: Ten patients with chronic bronchitis exacerbation received PD, FLUTTER, and ELTGOL by the same respiratory therapist at about the same time of day on separate days and in random order.

Main outcome measures: Oxygen saturation and pulmonary function were measured before, immediately after, and 15 minutes and 1 hour after each treatment. Improvement in sputum production was measured by total sputum wet weight immediately after and for 1 hour after treatment.

Interventions: PD consisted of positioning the patients in a posture that allows bronchial drainage by gravity. FLUTTER is a device that is claimed to combine oscillating positive expiratory pressure with oscillations of the airflow. ELTGOL is an airway clearance technique that uses lateral posture and different lung volumes to control expiratory flow rate to avoid airway compression. The total time spent for treatments was 30 minutes.

Results: All techniques were well tolerated, and oxygen saturation and pulmonary function did not change significantly during and after treatments. Thirty minutes after the beginning of treatment, sputum production increased significantly with all techniques, but during the 1 hour after the end of treatment, it was significantly larger with FLUTTER (from 15.0 +/- 8.6g to 19.0 +/- 9.3g, p < .01) and ELTGOL (from 17.0 +/- 7.0g to 20.6 +/- 6.9g, p < .02) than with PD (from 15.5 +/- 4.0g to 17.5 +/- 3.7g, NS).

Conclusions: All three treatments were safe and effective in removing secretions without causing undesirable effects on oxygen saturation, but FLUTTER and ELTGOL techniques were more effective in prolonging secretion removal in chronic bronchitis exacerbation than was the PD method.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Breathing Exercises
  • Bronchitis / rehabilitation*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Drainage, Postural
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oscillometry
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Oxygen