What is Chest Physiotherapy?

Man with hands over chest, airway clearance techniques Chest Physiotherapy (CPT) is an airway clearance technique that involves manually percussing the chest wall to help clear the lungs of mucus build up. Administered with the help of a caregiver or respiratory therapist, manual CPT is used for patients living with a chronic lung condition, such as cystic fibrosis or bronchiectasis, where the lungs are unable to clear mucus naturally. 


How Does Chest Physiotherapy Work?

According to the American Thoracic Society, two ways bronchiectasis patients can receive effective chest physiotherapy include:

  • Manual CPT— a therapist or caregiver manually claps on the patient’s chest wall in various positions to help loosen mucus and move it toward the larger airways.
  • Vest Therapy—Through a high frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) therapy vest, recurring pulses of air squeeze and release the patient’s upper body, loosening and thinning mucus from the lungs, so it’s more easily coughed up.


Manual CPT vs. Vest Therapy

Though manual CPT and chest physiotherapy performed using an airway clearance vest are two effective methods to mobilize mucus, there are key differences between the two approaches. 


Independent Performance: 

An essential difference between manual CPT and >percussion vest therapy is the latter can be performed independently. Manual CPT involves a series of positions to use gravity to help drain mucus from the lungs and the assistance of a caregiver or therapist. The caregiver then percusses the chest wall to help loosen mucus and move it toward the larger airways. 

In comparison, percussion vests allow airway clearance therapy to be performed independently, typically done right away in the morning and before bed. By using a high frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) therapy vest, such as the SmartVest Airway Clearance System, the patient is able to administer each therapy session. SmartVest delivers rapidly repeating pulses of air that gently squeeze and release the upper body to help propel mucus toward the larger airways.1

See how HFCWO therapy using the SmartVest works to clear mucus and manage bronchiectasis symptoms


A SmartVest user and his wife.


Although manual CPT is performed by a trained caregiver or therapist, the treatment requires repeated movementsmultiple times a day. The patient is also asked to reposition his or her body to allow certain parts of the lungs to drain, with each session lasting up to 40 minutes.2 This can become uncomfortable and time consuming for both patient and caregiver to perform regularly.

Using SmartVest, both children and adults can wear their lightweight percussion vest and sit back as the vest does the HFCWO therapy for them. SmartVest is programmed per each patient’s specific prescription, making it easy to operate and ensure patients receive consistent therapy every day without interruption. Therapy is typically performed twice a day for 20-30 minutes.  


Therapy Monitoring:

Another key differentiator between manual chest physiotherapy and vest therapy is the latter’s ability to track therapy performance in real time. Using the SmartVest Airway Clearance System, patients can now take an active role in managing their bronchiectasis symptoms to ensure they’re reaching daily target goals and receiving the maximum benefit from each therapy session.

SmartVest Connect uses built-in cellular connectivity to provide real-time data to patients, and their clinicians, the moment they plug in their device and begin treatment. Patients can share notes and progress updates with their clinicians, allowing them to take a proactive approach to ensure bronchiectasis treatment is performed correctly and efficiently. 

To learn more about treating bronchiectasis via SmartVest, request a free informational patient packet today! 


Which Airway Clearance Technique is Right for You?

Though manual chest physiotherapy is an effective method of treating bronchiectasis, its technique presents certain limitations, especially without the aid of a caregiver. Receiving airway clearance therapy with the SmartVest may provide a more simple yet effective solution and allow you to perform therapy independently.Signs of Bronchiectasis, COPD and Bronchiectasis,


  1.  Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. “Chest Physical Therapy.” Retrieved from https://www.cff.org/Life-With-CF/Treatments-and-Therapies/Airway-Clearance/Chest-Physical-Therapy/
  2. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. “Chest Physical Therapy.” Retrieved from https://www.cff.org/Life-With-CF/Treatments-and-Therapies/Airway-Clearance/Chest-Physical-Therapy/
Keep Reading

How Serious is Bronchiectasis?

Next Up

Treating Bronchiectasis: New Independent Study Finds SmartVest Improves Outcomes