Positive expiratory pressure and oscillatory positive expiratory pressure therapies

Respir Care. 2007 Oct;52(10):1308-26; discussion 1327.


Airway clearance techniques, historically referred to as chest physical therapy, have traditionally consisted of a variety of breathing maneuvers or exercises and manual percussion and postural drainage. The methods and types of airway clearance techniques and devices have rapidly increased in an effort to find a more efficacious strategy that allows for self-therapy, better patient adherence and compliance, and more efficient durations of care. Mechanically applied pressure devices have migrated from European countries over the last several decades to clinical practice in the United States. I conducted a comprehensive MEDLINE search of two such devices: positive expiratory pressure (PEP) and oscillatory positive expiratory pressure (OPEP) and their role in airway clearance strategies. This was followed by a comprehensive search for cross-references in an attempt to identify additional studies. The results of that search are contained and reported in this review. From a methods standpoint, most of the studies of PEP and OPEP for airway clearance are limited by crossover designs and small sample sizes. While PEP and OPEP do not definitively prove superiority to other methods of airway clearance strategies, there is no clear evidence that they are inferior. Ultimately, the correct choice may be an airway clearance strategy that is clinically and cost effective, and is preferred by the patient so that adherence and compliance can be at the very least supported.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Airway Obstruction / etiology
  • Airway Obstruction / therapy*
  • Bronchial Diseases / complications
  • Bronchial Diseases / therapy*
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / complications
  • Lung Diseases / therapy*
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration / instrumentation*
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration / methods