Autogenic Drainage Physiotherapy Can Improve Lung Respiratory Mechanisms, Study Shows

Alice Melão, MSc avatar

by Alice Melão, MSc |

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Autogenic drainage physiotherapy can effectively improve the underlying lung mechanical impairment of cystic fibrosis (CF), a study shows.

Respiratory physiotherapy is an important part of the treatment of patients with CF because it helps remove the mucus that accumulates in the lungs and that can ultimately lead to respiratory failure.

Autogenic drainage is a commonly used, self-administered airway clearance technique. It is based on repetitive exercises of controlled inhalation and exhalation to move mucus buildup from the small to the large airways.

In the study, “The immediate effects of a single autogenic drainage session on ventilatory mechanics in adult subjects with cystic fibrosis,” published in the journal Plos Oneresearchers evaluated the respiratory changes induced by a single session of autogenic drainage.

A total of 41 cystic fibrosis adults were enrolled in the study, of whom 30 underwent autogenic drainage sessions lasting about 20 minutes, and 11 did not.

Participants’ lung function was evaluated before and after the treatment session based on the respiratory system resistance and reactance measured using the forced oscillations technique (FOT). This technique consists of applying repetitive oscillatory forced signals to the subject’s airways during normal respiration opening and measuring the pressure, flow, and volume of the lungs.

Results showed that all participants had moderate-to-severe obstructive respiratory disorder, characterized by reduced forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and ‎FEV1/forced vital capacity (FVC) ratio — all specific measures of lung function. They also all experienced increased bronchial resistance and decreased reactance.

After the physiotherapy session, patients who performed autogenic drainage showed small but significant improvements in FEV1 and FVC measures compared with CF patients who did not. Similar positive effects were also reported in inspiratory resistance and reactance.

Improvements in FEV1 and FVC were found to be significantly correlated with the reported improvements in inspiratory resistance. However, no correlation was found between these respiratory function improvements and the amount of expelled mucus.

No significant changes in any of the parameters assessed were observed in the control group.

These findings showed that a single session of autogenic drainage could improve airway inspiratory resistance, and ultimately improve lung mechanic function.

Additional similar studies addressing “other airway clearance techniques or exercise, and evaluation of longer treatment periods, would improve our understanding of the magnitude and range of parameters affected by the different techniques,” the researchers wrote.