Background: Cystic fibrosis (CF) patients commonly use a high-frequency chest-wall compression (HFCWC) device for airway clearance that generates oscillatory flow with a sine-wave configuration. Typical HFCWC settings combine a lower Vest inflation pressure setting (eg, 5 on the Vest's arbitrary 1-10 scale for the setting that controls the background pressure of the inflatable vest) with mid-range frequency (14-16 Hz) (lower-pressure/mid-frequency HFCWC).
Objective: To determine whether HFCWC with higher pressure settings (6-10 on the Hill-Rom Vest's arbitrary 1-10 scale) combined with variable mid-frequencies (8, 9, and 10 Hz, plus 18, 19, and 20 Hz) (higher-pressure/variable-frequency HFCWC) results in greater sputum expectoration than lower-pressure/mid-frequency HFCWC.
Methods: This was a controlled randomized crossover study. Sixteen clinically stable, adult CF patients participated. Patients performed airway clearance with HFCWC, once each with lower-pressure/mid-frequency HFCWC and higher-pressure/variable-frequency HFCWC, on separate occasions. All sputum produced during each session was collected. Patients completed pulmonary function tests before and after each session.
Results: Median sputum wet weight was greater with higher-pressure/variable-frequency HFCWC than with lower-pressure/mid-frequency HFCWC (6.4 g, range 0.49-22.0 g, versus 4.8 g, range 0.24-15.0 g, P = .02). Dry sputum weight differences did not reach statistical significance (higher-pressure/variable-frequency HFCWC 0.20 g, range 0.009-0.62 g, lower-pressure/mid-frequency HFCWC 0.12 g, range 0.0001-1.0 g, P = .23). Higher-pressure/variable-frequency HFCWC and lower-pressure/mid-frequency HFCWC resulted in similar increases in FEV(1) (70 mL vs 90 mL, P = .21) and forced vital capacity (80 mL vs 80 mL, P = .94). Post-therapy sputum viscoelastic properties did not differ. Patients perceived the 2 regimens as equally comfortable and effective (P = .35 and P = .35, respectively).
Conclusions: In adult CF patients, single-session higher-pressure/variable-frequency HFCWC resulted in greater sputum expectoration by wet weight, but not other differences, compared to the commonly used lower-pressure/mid-frequency settings. Longer-term comparisons are needed in a larger, more diverse population to determine whether sustained use of the higher-pressure/variable-frequency settings results in clinically important differences in outcomes.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00685035.