What is Airway Clearance?

Airway clearance is a form of chest physiotherapy in which specialised techniques are implemented to increase the ease and efficiency in which phlegm is cleared from the lungs. Airway clearance can also be called:
- chest physiotherapy
- bronchial hygiene
- respiratory physiotherapy

Why is airway clearance important?

Small amounts of phlegm in the lungs are normal and act as a defence mechanism for the body by catching bugs and organisms and transporting them out of the lungs via the cilia - an inbuilt escalator for phlegm in the lungs

In conditions in which excessive phlegm is produced (cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, COPD etc) or where normal muscles of expiration become weak (cerebral palsy, stroke, MS etc) the cilia become overloaded and cannot cope with the volume of phlegm that needs clearing from the lungs

When phlegm is not cleared from the lungs the inhaled bugs/organisms can quickly develop into chest infections and pneumonia.

The presence of chest infections and pneumonia can cause further damage and scarring to the lungs and making the cilia even more ineffective

Therefore airway clearance is vitally important to clear extra phlegm regularly and prevent infection and progressive worsening of lung function.


How can Functional Lungs assist with Airway Clearance?

  • Evaluate a variety of different airway clearance techniques to find the most appropriate for you and your lifestyle
  • Teach proper coughing technique to reduce the chance of chronic pain and pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your airway clearance routine and provide appropriate titatrion to your lung disease
  • Provide action plans for up-titrating your airway clearance during exacerbations of your condition

What airway clearance should I perform?

Airway clearance regimens are implemented based on the underlying characteristics of the disorder causing secretion retention. As there are a wide variety of causes for secretion retention the corresponding airway clearance regime is equally as varied. Airway clearance regimes at Functional Lungs may include:

  • Positive Expiratory Pressure (PEP) therapy - also known as a flutter
  • Autogenic drainage
  • Cough assist machines
  • Manual cough assist
  • Exercise as airway clearance
  • Breathing exercises
  • Manual therapy - percussion and vibrations
  • Nebuliser adjusts
  • Expiratory muscle training
  • Airway humidification
  • High flow humidification therapy
  • Suctioning
  • Positioning
  • Manual insufflation/exsufflation