What is Airway Clearance Therapy?

If you have a lung disease such as COPD, Cystic Fibrosis, or Bronchiectasis, you may have a sticky mucus in your lungs. When the mucus builds up in your airways, it can be hard to breathe. It also makes it easier to get infections.

Airway clearance techniques (ACTs) are ways to loosen thick, sticky mucus so it can be coughed up and cleared out of the lungs. Early diagnosis and implementation of airway clearance can reduce morbidity and mortality.*

Breathlessness &

Airway Clearance Therapy Techniques

Manual Chest Physiotherapy

Therapist or caregiver gently but firmly patting the chest and back to loosen thick mucus in the lungs

High Frequency Chest Wall Oscillation

High frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) is performed with a mechanical vest that vibratesthe chest wall to loosen mucus

Coughing & Huffing

Coughing is one of the easiest airway clearance techniques and helps to release mucus from he lungs and passed into airways for clearing

Positive Expiratory Pressure (PEP)

PEP therapy uses a mask or mouthpiece attached to a resistor that holds the airways open to breath in and out against the resistance

Oscillating Positive Expiratory Pressure (OPEP)

OPEP is where a person blows out many times through a device to vibrate the large and small airways to dislodge mucus

Active Cycle of Breathing Technique

ACBT therapy includes controlled breathing, chest expansion exercises and forced coughing to get air behind the mucus to force it out


1. Volsko, T. Airway Clearance Therapy: Finding the Evidence. Respiratory Care. October 2013.