Comparison of settings used for high-frequency chest-wall compression in cystic fibrosis

Robert R. Kempainen, Carlos Milla, Jordan M Dunitz, Kay Savik, Ann Hazelwood, Cynthia Williams, Bruce K. Rubin, Joanne L Billings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Cystic fibrosis (CF) patients commonly use a high-frequency chest-wall compression (HFCWC) device for airway clearance that generates oscillatory flow with a sine-wave configuration. Typical HFCWC settings combine a lower Vest inflation pressure setting (eg, 5 on the Vest's arbitrary 1-10 scale for the setting that controls the background pressure of the inflatable vest) with mid-range frequency (14-16 Hz) (lower-pressure/mid-frequency HFCWC). Objective: To determine whether HFCWC with higher pressure settings (6-10 on the Hill-Rom Vest's arbitrary 1-10 scale) combined with variable mid-frequencies (8, 9, and 10 Hz, plus 18, 19, and 20 Hz) (higher-pressure/variable-frequency HFCWC) results in greater sputum expectoration than lower-pressure/mid-frequency HFCWC. Methods: This was a controlled randomized crossover study. Sixteen clinically stable, adult CF patients participated. Patients performed airway clearance with HFCWC, once each with lower-pressure/mid-frequency HFCWC and higher-pressure/variable-frequency HFCWC, on separate occasions. All sputum produced during each session was collected. Patients completed pulmonary function tests before and after each session. Results: Median sputum wet weight was greater with higher-pressure/variable-frequency HFCWC than with lower-pressure/mid-frequency HFCWC (6.4 g, range 0.49 -22.0 g, versus 4.8 g, range 0.24-15.0 g, P =.02). Dry sputum weight differences did not reach statistical significance (higherpressure/variable-frequency HFCWC 0.20 g, range 0.009-0.62 g, lower-pressure/mid-frequency HFCWC 0.12 g, range 0.0001-1.0 g, P =.23). Higher-pressure/variable-frequency HFCWC and lower-pressure/mid-frequency HFCWC resulted in similar increases in FEV1 (70 mL vs 90 mL, P =.21) and forced vital capacity (80 mL vs 80 mL, P =.94). Post-therapy sputum viscoelastic properties did not differ. Patients perceived the 2 regimens as equally comfortable and effective (P =.35 and P =.35, respectively). Conclusions: In adult CF patients, single-session higherpressure/variable-frequency HFCWC resulted in greater sputum expectoration by wet weight, but not other differences, compared to the commonly used lower-pressure/mid-frequency settings. Longer-term comparisons are needed in a larger, more diverse population to determine whether sustained use of the higher-pressure/variable-frequency settings results in clinically important differences in outcomes. ( registration NCT00685035).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-701
Number of pages7
JournalRespiratory care
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2010


  • Airway-clearance techniques
  • Bronchial drainage
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • High-frequency chest wall compression


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