Mucociliary clearance techniques for treating non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis: Is there evidence?

Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2015 Jun;28(2):150-9. doi: 10.1177/0394632015584724. Epub 2015 Jun 15.


Non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis (nCFb) is an acquired condition of variable etiology. An impaired mucociliary clearance seems to be one of the mechanisms behind nCFb, and treatment involves antibiotics, mucoactive agents, and airway clearance techniques (ACTs). Traditional ACTs have four components: postural drainage, percussion, vibration of the chest wall, and coughing. Reviewing the international medical literature on the use of ACTs for patients with nCFb from 1989 to the present day, we retrieved 93 articles, of which 35 met our selection criteria for this analysis. We reviewed active cycle of breathing techniques (ACBT), forced expiration techniques (FET), autogenic drainage, postural drainage, oscillating positive expiratory pressure (OPep), high frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO), and exercise or pulmonary rehabilitation. Overall, ACTs appear to be safe for individuals (adults and children) with stable bronchiectasis; where there may be improvements in sputum expectoration, selected measures of lung function, and health-related quality of life. Unfortunately, there is a lack of RCTs in nCFb patients, especially in children. Moreover, none of the studies describes long-term effects of ACTs. It should be noted that a single intervention might not reflect the longer-term outcome and there is no evidence to recommend or contest any type of ACTs in nCFb management. Multicenter RCTs are necessary to evaluate the different techniques of ACTs especially in children with nCFb.

Keywords: airway clearance techniques; chest physiotherapy; non-CF bronchiectasis.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bronchiectasis / physiopathology*
  • Bronchiectasis / therapy*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / physiopathology
  • Drainage, Postural / methods
  • Humans
  • Mucociliary Clearance / physiology*
  • Quality of Life
  • Respiratory Therapy / methods