People with cystic fibrosis experience chronic airway infections as a result of mucus build up within the lungs. Repeated infections often cause lung damage and disease. Airway clearance therapies aim to improve mucus clearance, increase sputum production, and improve airway function. The active cycle of breathing technique (also known as ACBT) is an airway clearance method that uses a cycle of techniques to loosen airway secretions including breathing control, thoracic expansion exercises, and the forced expiration technique. This is an update of a previously published review.
To compare the clinical effectiveness of the active cycle of breathing technique with other airway clearance therapies in cystic fibrosis.
We searched the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis Trials Register, compiled from electronic database searches and handsearching of journals and conference abstract books. We also searched the reference lists of relevant articles and reviews.Date of last search: 25 April 2016.
Randomised or quasi-randomised controlled clinical studies, including cross-over studies, comparing the active cycle of breathing technique with other airway clearance therapies in cystic fibrosis.
Two review authors independently screened each article, abstracted data and assessed the risk of bias of each study.
Our search identified 62 studies, of which 19 (440 participants) met the inclusion criteria. Five randomised controlled studies (192 participants) were included in the meta-analysis; three were of cross-over design. The 14 remaining studies were cross-over studies with inadequate reports for complete assessment. The study size ranged from seven to 65 participants. The age of the participants ranged from six to 63 years (mean age 22.33 years). In 13 studies, follow up lasted a single day. However, there were two long-term randomised controlled studies with follow up of one to three years. Most of the studies did not report on key quality items, and therefore, have an unclear risk of bias in terms of random sequence generation, allocation concealment, and outcome assessor blinding. Due to the nature of the intervention, none of the studies blinded participants or the personnel applying the interventions. However, most of the studies reported on all planned outcomes, had adequate follow up, assessed compliance, and used an intention-to-treat analysis.Included studies compared the active cycle of breathing technique with autogenic drainage, airway oscillating devices, high frequency chest compression devices, conventional chest physiotherapy, and positive expiratory pressure. Preference of technique varied: more participants preferred autogenic drainage over the active cycle of breathing technique; more preferred the active cycle of breathing technique over airway oscillating devices; and more were comfortable with the active cycle of breathing technique versus high frequency chest compression. No significant difference was seen in quality of life, sputum weight, exercise tolerance, lung function, or oxygen saturation between the active cycle of breathing technique and autogenic drainage or between the active cycle of breathing technique and airway oscillating devices. There was no significant difference in lung function and the number of pulmonary exacerbations between the active cycle of breathing technique alone or in conjunction with conventional chest physiotherapy. All other outcomes were either not measured or had insufficient data for analysis.
There is insufficient evidence to support or reject the use of the active cycle of breathing technique over any other airway clearance therapy. Five studies, with data from eight different comparators, found that the active cycle of breathing technique was comparable with other therapies in outcomes such as participant preference, quality of life, exercise tolerance, lung function, sputum weight, oxygen saturation, and number of pulmonary exacerbations. Longer-term studies are needed to more adequately assess the effects of the active cycle of breathing technique on outcomes important for people with cystic fibrosis such as quality of life and preference.