Chest Physiotherapy

Infants; new-born to 12 Months

Chest physiotherapy, also called postural drainage, is a way for you to help your child get rid of extra mucus in his or her lungs. This is important because too much mucus can block the airways in the lungs. If the airways are blocked, the air cannot move in and out like it should.

Normally, there is just the right amount of mucus in the lungs. In people with Cystic Fibrosis or when the lungs become irritated or infected, a lot of thick mucus is produced. Extra mucus can slow down or stop the cilia (tiny structures on the linings of the lungs that clear excess mucus from the lungs) from working. If the cilia cannot clear the mucus, we have to help the lungs get the mucus out. This is why chest physiotherapy is done.

How Chest Physiotherapy is Done

Chest physiotherapy uses chest percussion. Chest percussion is clapping of the chest with percussor cups, which are similar to suction cups. This vibrates the airways in the lungs. The vibration helps loosen mucus so it can be coughed out.

Nasopharyngeal Suction

The procedure of suctioning is a common practice in the treatment of children with a variety of conditions. It is undertaken to remove excessive or retained secretions from a child’s respiratory tract.

Use of nebulised saline in adjunction to chest physiotherapy

A nebuliser is a device that turns a saline solution (a mixture of water and salt) into a mist, which can then be breathed in through a facemask or mouthpiece.

How the nebulised saline works:

Hypertonic saline is a sterile saline solution of different concentrations, 3 percent, 3.5 percent, and 7 percent. It works by increasing the amount of sodium (salt) in the airways. Salt attracts water into the airways, which thins the mucus, making it easier to cough out.

The SASP Paediatric Physiotherapy Group advises how respiratory physiotherapy can assist in alleviating the symptoms of respiratory infections in babies and toddlers. Therapy includes nebulisation, chest physiotherapy, naso-pharyngeal and therapeutic breathing exercises.

Physiotherapists are trained professionals and first-line practitioners, which means that you do not have to be referred by a doctor to make an appointment with a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists can play an important role in supporting and educating parents on dealing with children with respiratory problems.

Percussion is often a beneficial manual technique to help in the removal of secretions in a number of respiratory conditions, these include:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Adult Respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)