BACKGROUND: Conventional chest physical therapy (CCPT), applied by therapists using cupped hands to perform percussion, is commonly used in hospitalized adults. However, increased work load demands and occupational health concerns (eg, carpal tunnel syndrome) limit the overall utilization of this therapy. Therefore, we conducted a study to compare the overall effectiveness of CCPT to high-frequency chest wall compressions (HFCWC) applied via a vibratory vest. METHODS: A single-center, randomized trial among hospitalized intubated and non-intubated adult patients requiring chest physical therapy comparing CCPT and HFCWC. The primary outcome measure was hospital stay. RESULTS: A total of 280 per-protocol patients (out of an a priori estimated 320 patients required to demonstrate a 20% relative reduction in hospital stay) were randomly assigned to receive CCPT (no. = 146, 52.1%) or HFCWC (no. = 134, 47.9%). The hospital stay was 12.5 ± 8.8 days for patients randomized to CCPT and 13.0 ± 8.9 days for patients randomized to HFCWC (P =.62). Patient comfort was assessed using a visual analog scale (increasing score reflects greater discomfort) and was statistically greater for patients randomized to CCPT compared to HFCWC (2.2 ± 0.8 vs 1.9 ± 0.8, P =.009). The duration of time until radiographic resolution of lobar atelectasis trended less for CCPT compared to HFCWC (5.2±4.3 d vs 6.5 ± 5.2 d, P =.051). All other secondary outcomes, including hospital mortality and nosocomial pneumonia, were similar for both treatment groups. CONCLUSIONS: This study was inadequately powered for the primary outcome of interest and hence we cannot make recommendations on the preferential use of HFCWC or CCPT for intubated and non-intubated adult patients. HFCWC was associated with statistically better comfort scores. (ClinicalTrials.gov registration NCT00717873.).
- Chest physical therapy
- High-frequency chest wall compressions
- Respiratory therapist