The Value of Airway Clearance in Managing Bronchiectasis

airway clearance techniques, bronchiectasis resources

Understanding the complexities of a chronic lung condition like bronchiectasis (brong-kee-EK-tuh-sis) is essential to finding the best treatment approach to your individual symptoms.

From shortness of breath to a chronic cough that produces mucus, bronchiectasis is an irreversible lung condition that can damage your airways and weaken your ability to clear mucus on your own. For patients living with bronchiectasis, clearing mucus from your lungs using a combination of medication and airway clearance techniques can improve your symptoms and reduce complications of impaired airway clearance.

What is Airway Clearance?

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, airway clearance techniques help loosen mucus in the lungs, so it can be broken up and more easily coughed out – thereby decreasing the risk of infection.1 Airway clearance techniques include:

airway clearance techniques, bronchiectasis resources




This technique is performed multiple times a day using various positions to use gravity to drain mucus. Patients require the assistance of either a therapist or caregiver to manually clap on their chest wall to help move the mucus into the larger airways.

airway clearance techniques, bronchiectasis resources




Breathing techniques, such as autogenic drainage and the active cycle of breathing technique, are performed using controlled breathing exercises to loosen and mobilize mucus. According to the American Thoracic Society, a common breathing technique is known as the “huff cough.” This involves a repeated cycle of inhaling air through your nose and then exhaling it back out through your mouth—simultaneously pulling your abdomen inward and making a “huff” sound.2

airway clearance techniques, bronchiectasis resources




Oscillating Positive Expiratory Pressure (OPEP) devices create resistance and vibrations, which helps to loosen and clear mucus from the airways. After a series of breaths through an OPEP device, patients will “huff cough” to clear mucus from their lungs.3

airway clearance techniques, bronchiectasis resources



HFCWO therapy via the SmartVest Airway Clearance System is clinically proven to clear the lungs of excess mucus, which can reduce the risk of respiratory infections and hospitalizations.4 It works by delivering rapidly repeating pulses of air that alternately squeeze and release the upper body and propel mucus from the lungs, moving it toward major airways where it can be more easily coughed out.


Why is airway clearance an essential part of managing bronchiectasis?

Each patient will experience different bronchiectasis symptoms, so it’s important to find an airway clearance technique that best fits your lifestyle, improves symptoms, and reduces complications of bronchiectasis. Airway clearance techniques like the SmartVest Airway Clearance System offer a convenient and comfortable approach to bronchiectasis management by helping you prevent the cycle of mucus buildup and infection. And when used at the early onset of bronchiectasis-related symptoms, SmartVest can reduce your condition’s progression and offer a long-term solution to airway clearance.  


Bronchiectasis Resources Learn more about airway clearance techniques and discover why the SmartVest Airway Clearance System is a more comfortable treatment option when compared to other HFCWO therapies. To talk to your doctor about SmartVest, download this form before your next appointment.

1. Airway clearance. (n.d) Retrieved from Therapies/Airway-Clearance/
2. Treating bronchiectasis (2017). American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 196, 19-20. Retrieved from
3. Positive Expiratory Pressure. (n.d) Retrieved from
4. 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.
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