The human body continually produces mucus as a way of protecting its organs. Mucus acts as an air filter, trapping particles and impurities and preventing them from getting into the lungs.
For the body to function properly, it must routinely clear itself of mucus. However, a range of diseases and conditions can hamper a person’s ability to clear their airways, by:
- producing an excess of abnormally thick mucus
- interfering with bodily processes that transport secretions away from the lungs, or
- diminishing the ability to cough up mucus
It is important to be able to remove mucus from the respiratory tract to avoid negative health impacts, such as impaired breathing, lung infections and permanent lung damage.
Clinicians typically prescribe multiple therapies to help, including prescription medicines, chest physiotherapy, special coughing postures and techniques, and cough-assist accessories.
High frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO)
If these therapies fail to provide adequate relief, or if the patient continues to experience infections, breathing problems and other complications caused by an inability to cough up mucus from the airways, the doctor may prescribe a medical device that delivers high frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO).
HFCWO consists of a wearable vest surrounding an inflatable air bladder and a programmable air pulse generator, linked together by a connecting hose.
The patient wears the vest and turns on the generator, which delivers a rapidly repeating pulse of air, alternately squeezing and releasing the upper body. Each squeeze simulates a ‘mini cough’, which acts to:
- loosen mucus from the walls of lung airways
- thin mucus stuck in the lungs
- propel mucus toward larger airways, where it can be easily coughed out
A cough assist device is a non-invasive way of clearing secretions from a patient’s airways. Instead of introducing a catheter, the device delivers air through a mask or mouthpiece, reducing discomfort and the potential for infection.
The device simulates a natural cough by gradually delivering a large volume of air to the lungs, similar to a deep breath. It then quickly reverses the airflow to pull secretions out.