The unique contribution of manual chest compression–vibrations to airflow during physiotherapy in sedated, fully ventilated children*

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This study aimed to quantify the specific effects of manual lung inflations with chest compression–vibrations, commonly used to assist airway clearance in ventilated patients. The hypothesis was that force applied during the compressions made a significant additional contribution to increases in peak expiratory flow and expiratory to inspiratory flow ratio over and above that resulting from accompanying increases in inflation volume.


Prospective observational study.


Cardiac and general pediatric intensive care.


Sedated, fully ventilated children.


Customized force-sensing mats and a commercial respiratory monitor recorded force and respiration during physiotherapy.


Percentage changes in peak expiratory flow, peak expiratory to inspiratory flow ratios, inflation volume, and peak inflation pressure between baseline and manual inflations with and without compression–vibrations were calculated. Analysis of covariance determined the relative contribution of changes in pressure, volume, and force to influence changes in peak expiratory flow and peak expiratory to inspiratory flow ratio.

Measurements and Main Results:

Data from 105 children were analyzed (median age, 1.3 yrs; range, 1 wk to 15.9 yrs). Force during compressions ranged from 15 to 179 N (median, 46 N). Peak expiratory flow increased on average by 76% during compressions compared with baseline ventilation. Increases in peak expiratory flow were significantly related to increases in inflation volume, peak inflation pressure, and force with peak expiratory flow increasing by, on average, 4% for every 10% increase in inflation volume (p < .001), 5% for every 10% increase in peak inflation pressure (p = .005), and 3% for each 10 N of applied force (p < .001). By contrast, increase in peak expiratory to inspiratory flow ratio was only related to applied force with a 4% increase for each 10 N of force (p < .001).


These results provide evidence of the unique contribution of compression forces in increasing peak expiratory flow and peak expiratory to inspiratory flow ratio bias over and above that related to accompanying changes from manual hyperinflations. Force generated during compression–vibrations was the single significant factor in multivariable analysis to explain the increases in expiratory flow bias. Such increases in the expiratory bias provide theoretically optimal physiological conditions for cephalad mucus movement in fully ventilated children.

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