Neuromuscular Disorders

How Airway Clearance Therapy Can Help

Airway Clearance in Neuromuscular Disorders

Respiratory health is crucial for children and adults with neuromuscular disorders. These disorders progressively weaken muscles, often including the respiratory muscles like the diaphragm and abdominal muscles.  Severely weakened respiratory muscles most commonly occurs in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal muscle atrophy (SMA) type 1, muscular dystrophy (MD) and other neuromuscular disorders.

Neuromuscular conditions can cause breathing problems in several ways, directly and indirectly, because of related complications.  Reduced lung function and hypoventilation can develop with muscle weakness problems. Weakness of the diaphragm and other breathing muscles leads to restricted lung function. If these muscles don’t work well, individuals cannot take as deep a breath as usual. Muscle weakness and a weak cough can make it difficult to get mucus out of the lungs leading to airway mucus plugging and chest congestion.

The human body uses a variety of reflexes and voluntary actions to keep the airway clear, primarily through coughing. When the muscles get too weak to perform effective coughing, mucus can accumulate in the airways, partially blocking it and impairing breathing. The reduced ability to cough leads to a buildup of mucus, recurring infections and potential respiratory issues.

Secretion Mobilization

AffloVest for Neuromuscular Patients

Secretion mobilization techniques are intended to mobilize the mucus in the peripheral airways so they can be removed more easily. An advantage of secretion mobilization methods is that they don’t require the patient’s cooperation and thus can be used on infants, young children, and patients who are incapable of participating in the therapy.  One secretion mobilization technique is chest physical therapy (CPT). CPT utilizes postural drainage and percussion (clapping on the chest and/or back) to loosen thick, sticky mucus in the lungs so it can be removed by coughing or suctioning. CPT is generally thought of as the gold standard, but it can be difficult to perform consistently over the course of individual treatment.

High-frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) is an airway clearance technique in which external chest wall oscillations are applied to the chest using a vest that wraps around the chest. HFCWO vests produce vibrations at variable frequencies and intensities, helping to loosen and thin mucus and separate it from airway walls. The frequency and intensity for this type of airway clearance needs to be customized to each patient and will need to be re-evaluated regularly throughout the patient’s disease course.  HFCWO airway clearance therapy is a cornerstone technique in managing respiratory disorders associated with neuromuscular diseases such as MD, multiple sclerosis (MS), ALS, and quadriplegia.

Benefits of AffloVest® HFCWO Therapy

AffloVest Mobile Mechanical HFCWO airway clearance therapy can be an effective therapy for individuals with neuromuscular disorders.  AffloVest is a patient-specific HFCWO therapy with 8 anatomically positioned oscillating motors that create individual pressure waveforms to target all lobes of the lungs, front and back, to loosen, thin and mobilize lung secretions, and designed to closely mimic the gold standard, manual CPT.

If desired, a variety of airway clearance therapies may be combined during use with the AffloVest to help optimize airway clearance. With its unique design and the ability to take full, deep breaths during treatment, nebulizer treatments and postural drainage techniques can be combined with AffloVest therapy with the goal of improving lung function and helping improve a person’s quality of life.

AffloVest was designed with ease-of-use in mind for patients, families and caregivers, to deliver airway clearance therapy that can be managed at home or in the hospital. With no bulky tubes and heavy generators as found in other HFCWO therapies, the AffloVest can be utilized in any postural position (i.e. laying down, standing, sitting, inclined, reclined etc.) all to help improve the quality of life for patients with MS, MD, ALS, and other neuromuscular and respiratory diseases.

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