Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic, progressive disease and is treated with inhaled medication to optimize the patient's lung health through decreasing their symptoms, especially breathlessness. Halotherapy is the inhalation of micronized dry salt within a chamber that mimics a salt cave environment. Recent media reports suggest that this therapy may help with the symptoms of COPD.
Objective: To critically evaluate and summarize the evidence for the use of halotherapy as a treatment for COPD.
Design: A review using systematic approach and narrative synthesis.
Data sources: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), PubMed, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Google Scholar were searched. Two reviewers independently reviewed abstracts and selected eligible studies based on predetermined selection criteria.
Results: Of the 151 articles retrieved from databases and relevant reference lists, only one randomized controlled trial met the inclusion criteria. A meta-analysis was unable to be conducted due to the limited number of published studies. Inclusion criteria were subsequently expanded to allow three case-control studies to be included, ensuring that a narrative synthesis could be completed. From the pooled data of the four studies, there were 1,041 participants (661 in the intervention group and 380 in the control group). The assessment of methodological quality raised issues associated with randomization and patient selection. Three themes were identified from the narrative synthesis: respiratory function, quality of life, and medication use.
Conclusion: Themes generated from the narrative synthesis data reflect outcome measures regularly used for interventional research associated with COPD. From this review, recommendations for inclusion of halotherapy as a therapy for COPD cannot be made at this point and there is a need for high quality studies to determine the effectiveness of this therapy.
Keywords: aerosol; chronic disease; lung disease; salt cave; salt therapy; speleotherapy.