Background: Oscillatory positive expiratory pressure (PEP) with the Flutter device facilitates secretion removal. In the Flutter a steel ball vibrates inside a cone, causing air flow vibration. A new device, the Acapella, uses a counterweighted plug and magnet to create air flow oscillation. The Acapella comes in 2 models: one for patients with expiratory flow > or = 15 L/min and one for < or = 15 L/min. We hypothesized that the Acapella and Flutter would produce similar mean PEP, oscillatory pressure amplitude, and frequency over a clinically relevant range of flows.
Methods: We measured oscillatory amplitude, PEP, and frequency. Values for frequency, peak, trough, and mean pressure were recorded automatically every 3 seconds at flows of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 L/min. The pressure waveform for 1 second was also graphically displayed and recorded. The devices were adjusted to give low, medium, and high mean expiratory pressure (Flutter angle at 0, 20, and 40 degrees; Acapella by dial setting). Data were analyzed by 2-way repeated measures analysis of variance, and differences were considered significant when p was < 0.05.
Results: There were statistically significant differences between the devices for mean pressure, pressure amplitude, and frequency, for all experimental conditions. However, the differences were relatively small and may not be clinically important. Both devices produced similar pressure waveforms at the medium flows. At 5 L/min the Acapella produced a more stable waveform, with a lower frequency, higher amplitude, and a slightly wider range of PEP than the Flutter.
Conclusions: Acapella and Flutter have similar performance characteristics. Acapella's performance is not gravity-dependent (ie, dependent on device orientation) and may be easier to use for some patients, particularly at low expiratory flows.