Cystic fibrosis pulmonary guidelines: airway clearance therapies

Respir Care. 2009 Apr;54(4):522-37.


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease characterized by dehydration of airway surface liquid and impaired mucociliary clearance. As a result, there is difficulty clearing pathogens from the lung, and patients experience chronic pulmonary infections and inflammation. Clearance of airway secretions has been a primary therapy for those with CF, and a variety of airway clearance therapies (ACTs) have been developed. Because ACTs are intrusive and require considerable time and effort, it is important that appropriate techniques are recommended on the basis of available evidence of efficacy and safety. Therefore, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation established a committee to examine the clinical evidence for each therapy and provide guidance for their use. A systematic review was commissioned, which identified 7 unique reviews and 13 additional controlled trials that addressed one or more of the comparisons of interest and were deemed eligible for inclusion. Recommendations for use of the ACTs were made, balancing the quality of evidence and the potential harms and benefits. The committee determined that, although there is a paucity of controlled trials that assess the long-term effects of ACTs, the evidence quality overall for their use in CF is fair and the benefit is moderate. The committee recommends airway clearance be performed on a regular basis in all patients. There are no ACTs demonstrated to be superior to others, so the prescription of ACTs should be individualized. Aerobic exercise is recommended as an adjunctive therapy for airway clearance and for its additional benefits to overall health.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chest Wall Oscillation
  • Cystic Fibrosis / physiopathology
  • Cystic Fibrosis / therapy*
  • Disease Progression
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Forced Expiratory Flow Rates
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Quality of Life
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Therapy*