How is mucus clearance performed in patients with bronchiectasis?

Updated: Jul 23, 2019
  • Author: Ethan E Emmons, MD; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Devices available to assist with mucus clearance include flutter devices, [100, 101] intrapulmonic percussive ventilation devices, and incentive spirometry. [102] Although consistent benefits from these techniques are lacking and vary with patient motivation and knowledge, a review did report improvement in patients’ cough-related quality of life scores. [103]

A relatively new device called the "Vest" system is a pneumatic compression device/vest that is worn by the patient periodically throughout the day. It is essentially technique independent and has variable success, especially in patients with CF. Significant controlled trials have not been performed in patients with non-CF bronchiectasis.

Nebulization with concentrated (7%) sodium chloride solutions appears to be beneficial, particularly in patients with CF-related bronchiectasis. [104, 105, 106] Mucolytics, such as acetylcysteine, are also often tried but do not appear to be universally beneficial. However, maintaining adequate general hydration, which may improve the viscidity of secretions, is important.

Aerosolized recombinant DNase has been shown to benefit patients with CF. [107, 108] This enzyme breaks down DNA released by neutrophils, which accumulates in the airways in response to chronic bacterial infection. However, improvement has not been definitively shown in patients with bronchiectasis from other causes. [109]


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