Airway clearance techniques to treat acute respiratory disorders in previously healthy children: where is the evidence?

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Airway clearance techniques are an important part of the respiratory management in children with cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis and neuromuscular disease. They are also, however, frequently prescribed in previously healthy children with an acute respiratory problem with the aim to speed up recovery. The current review explores the evidence behind this use of airway clearance techniques in children without underlying disease. Few studies have been performed; many different techniques are available and the therapies used are often poorly specified. It is necessary to name the specific airway clearance technique used in treatment rather than to just state “chest physiotherapy,” a term that is often confused with chest clapping or vibration plus postural drainage. There is little evidence that airway clearance techniques play a role in the management of children with an acute respiratory problem. Physicians routinely prescribing airway clearance techniques in previously healthy children should question their practice.

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