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Airway Clearance Techniques (ACTs)

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Are you ready to learn about Airway Clearance Therapy? I sure hope so because that is what this study guide is all about. As a Respiratory Therapist, this is definitely a topic that you must know. This is especially true for students because you will be tested on this topic during your exams. 

The good news is — this study guide can help you develop a good understanding of everything you need to know. So if you’re ready, let’s go ahead and dive right in.

Airway Clearance Therapy

What is Airway Clearance Therapy?

It’s a form of therapy that uses noninvasive techniques to help mobilize and remove secretions in order to improve gas exchange. We’re going to cover all of the different types of airway clearance therapy in this study guide. 

Types of Airway Clearance Therapy:

There are several different types of airway clearance therapy that you should be familiar with:

  1. Chest Physiotherapy (CPT)
  2. Positive Expiratory Pressure (PEP) Therapy
  3. Autogenic Drainage
  4. High-Frequency Chest Wall Compression (HFCW)
  5. Mobilization and Physical Activity
  6. Active Cycle of Breathing
  7. Intrapulmonary Percussive Ventilation (IPV)
  8. Mechanical Insufflation-Exsufllation (MIE)

Chest Physiotherapy (CPT)

Chest Physiotherapy is a form of therapy that is designed to help clear secretions, improve ventilation, and strengthen the respiratory muscles of breathing.

It includes chest percussion and vibration, directed coughing, positioning techniques, and other types breathing and conditioning exercises. 

Positive Expiratory Pressure (PEP) Therapy

An airway clearance technique where the patient exhales against backpressure which helps mobilize into the larger airways so that they can be removed via coughing.

Autogenic Drainage

An airway clearance technique which utilizes different speeds of breathing at different volumes in order to loosen and mobilize secretions into the larger airways for removal.

Mobilization and Physical Activity

Movement, physical activity, and being mobile helps improve the patient’s ventilatory mechanics, heart rate, cardiac output, and improved physical conditioning.

Not to mention, it helps to mobilize secretions as well.

High-Frequency Chest Wall Compression (HFCW)

A type of airway clearance therapy commonly used in patients with Cystic Fibrosis that uses an inflatable vest that helps mobilize secretions by creating oscillations against the patient’s thorax and chest wall.

Active Cycle of Breathing

A type of airway clearance therapy that helps a patient mobilize secretions by alternating cycles of deep breathing with relaxed breathing and forced expiration maneuvers.

Intrapulmonary Percussive Ventilation (IPV)

A type of airway clearance therapy that uses a pneumatic machine to deliver small pressurized breaths at a fast rate to help mobilize secretions.

It is often combined with aerosolized bronchodilator therapy.

Mechanical Insufflation-Exsufllation (MIE)

A type of airway clearance therapy that uses a device to provide alternating positive and negative pressure to give an artificial cough in order to help mobilize and remove secretions.
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