A patient that treats her impaired airway clearance with SmartVest uses her therapy while answering work emails.

Living with Impaired Airway Clearance?

If shortness of breath, frequent cough, or chest pain is getting in the way of you enjoying life’s moments, you may be living with a chronic respiratory condition, such as COPD, cystic fibrosis, or bronchiectasis. Over your lifetime, these lung diseases can weaken the airways, making it difficult for your body to naturally clear mucus on its own so it can prevent the spread of infection.

Living with bronchiectasis has its good and bad days, or “flare ups” (a.k.a exacerbations). When this happens, you may experience a worsening of the following symptoms:

  • A common symptom of impaired airway clearance is a chronic cough that produced mucus.

    Chronic cough that produces mucus in lungs

  • A common symptom of impaired airway clearance is recurring respiratory infections.

    Recurring respiratory infections

  • A common symptom of impaired airway clearance is breathlessness.

    Breathlessness and wheezing

  • A common symptom of impaired airway clearance is general fatigue.

    General fatigue

Having recurring flare ups could mean you spend more time in the hospital and less time spent with family or doing activities you love.

“Before I started using SmartVest, I couldn’t make it up the stairs or do any kind of activities like swimming. I was always out of breath. I now have my life back.” – Liz

Illustration of an older bronchiectasis patient that uses SmartVest to treat his impaired airway clearance.

What is Bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis (brong-kee-EK-tuh-sis) is an irreversible, chronic condition where airways in your lungs (bronchi) become damaged and abnormally widened from recurring inflammation or infection.

As your airways are repeatedly damaged, your lungs slowly lose their ability to mobilize and clear mucus. This makes it easier for bacteria to infect your lungs. Each recurring infection causes more damage to your airways, which over time weakens their ability to move air in and out.

  • Infection

    Lungs are damaged by bacteria, viruses, fungi, allergens, and other irritants.

  • Inflammation

    Your body responds to infected airways by inflammation and additional mucus creation.

  • Damage

    Airways slowly become ineffective at clearing mucus and breathing normally.

FAQs About Bronchiectasis

See below for some common questions, or contact our Patient Care Advocate team, who are also Respiratory Therapists. Call them directly at 1.855.528.5690


  • How is Bronchiectasis Diagnosed?

    To accurately diagnose bronchiectasis, your clinician may recommend a high resolution computerized tomography (HRCT) scan. This diagnostic test allows your doctor to closely examine your lungs’ structure and identify any damage to the airways.

  • Can a Person Have an Overlap of COPD and Bronchiectasis?

    COPD and bronchiectasis can share many similarities, including a chronic cough that produces mucus, shortness of breath, and recurring respiratory infections. If left undiagnosed, a comorbidity of COPD and bronchiectasis can lead to further lung damage, recurring flare ups, and extended hospitalization.

  • How Does HFCWO Therapy Treat Bronchiectasis?

    If your body is unable to clear mucus from the lungs naturally on its own, airway clearance therapy via HFCWO is your best defense against mucus build up and infection. The therapy helps to naturally loosen, thin, and propel mucus from the lungs, so it can be more easily coughed out.

  • Have More Questions?

    For more information on bronchiectasis, watch our video series: “Ask a Pulmonologist”, featuring Dr. Frederic Seifer. Have questions about treating your lung condition? We’re here to help!

Chronic Lung Conditions That Cause Impaired Airway Clearance

In addition to bronchiectasis, other lung diseases that can  hinder your ability to effectively clear the airways and breathe independently include:

  • Illustration of an older SmartVest Airway Clearance System patient with COPD.


    People living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) share similar symptoms to bronchiectasis, including frequent pneumonias, inflammation, and permanent lung damage.

  • Illustration of a middle-aged SmartVest user with muscular dystrophy.


    A general term that refers to impaired muscular and nervous system functions that may affect a person’s ability to naturally clear mucus from their lungs.

  • Illustration of a young SmartVest Airway Clearance system patient with cystic fibrosis.

    Cystic Fibrosis

    A genetic condition that causes thick, sticky mucus build up in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs.

A pediatric SmartVest Airway Clearance System patient plays video games and relaxes while using his SmartVest.

How Do Clinicians Treat Impaired Airway Clearance?

Your doctor may recommend a combination of medication and airway clearance techniques to help clear mucus in the lungs and reduce the onset of symptoms.

Common Airway Clearance Treatments Include:

  • SmartVest

    A high frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) vest, SmartVest thins, shears, and propels mucus from the lungs, moving it toward major airways where it can be easily coughed out.

  • Manual Chest Physiotherapy

    Several times a day using various positions, a therapist or caregiver manually claps on the patient's chest wall to help move the mucus into the larger airways.

  • Breathing Techniques

    Breathing techniques, such as autogenic drainage and the active cycle of breathing technique, use controlled breathing to loosen and mobilize mucus.

  • Antibiotic Regimens

    Antibiotic therapy plays a central role in treating acute infections, and performs well when combined with airway clearance therapies as a long-term solution.

  • OPEP Devices

    Oscillating Positive Expiratory Pressure (OPEP) devices create resistance and vibrations while exhaling, which helps to clear mucus from the airways.

A SmartVest Airway Clearance user competes a crossword puzzle while comfortably wearing his SmartVest.

Outsmart the Cycle of Chronic Lung Infection

The SmartVest Airway Clearance System has proven results that demonstrate its effectiveness in treating bronchiectasis and helping patients get proactive with their HFCWO therapy. 

In a published study, patients experienced a dramatic improvement in their breathing and lung function, and even saw a decrease in their antibiotic usage after using SmartVest.1

“I was able to go grocery shopping without using oxygen. Each day I use it, I get better results.” – Shirley

SmartVest users in the outcomes-based case review study experienced remarkable results:

  • SmartVest users in the study reduced their antibiotic prescriptions by 57%.

    reduction in antibiotic prescriptions

  • SmartVest users in the study decreased their hospitalizations by 59% after using SmartVest for a year.

    decrease in hospitalizations

  • SmartVest users in the study experienced 60% fewer emergency department visits.

    fewer emergency department visits

  • 68% of SmartVest users in the study unreservedly reported a significant improvement in quality of life.

    unreservedly reported a significant improvement in quality of life

1. Sievert CE, et al. 2016. Using High Frequency Chest Wall Oscillation in a Bronchiectasis Patient Population: An Outcomes-Based Case Review. Respiratory Therapy, 11(4), 34–38.

Smart Savings

Typical bronchiectasis patients experienced

and in the past 24 months.

Patients that treat their bronchiectasis with SmartVest reduced
antibiotic prescriptions by and hospitalizations by

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Download for your doctor

Patients who are compliant with their SmartVest treatment protocols may see a cost savings. Individual results may vary.

Sievert, CE et al. 2017. Cost-Effective Analysis of Using High Frequency Chest Wall Oscillation (HFCWO) in Patients with Non-Cystic Fibrosis Bronchiectasis. Respiratory Therapy, 12(1), 45-49.

Read the study

The SmartVest Airway Clearance System provides effective, convenient, and comfortable airway clearance therapy.

How Does SmartVest Work?

SmartVest supports your body’s natural breathing process through a comfortable, easy-to-use HFCWO therapy device that helps clear the lungs of mucus and relieve your bronchiectasis symptoms, so you spend more time feeling your best.

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