The relative value of chest physiotherapy (including cough) and cough alone for the removal of excessive tracheobronchial secretions has been assessed in six patients with stable chronic obstructive lung disease. After labelling with inhaled radioactive tracer particles, clearance of secretions from selected central and peripheral lung regions was followed with a gamma camera linked to a computer. Cough alone and chest physiotherapy (including cough) were equally effective in the enhancement of central lung clearance. Physiotherapy but not cough along accelerated peripheral lung clearance (p less than 0.05). Sputum yield was greater during physiotherapy than during cough (p less than 0.05). These findings confirm the value of chest physiotherapy and high-light the limitation of cough in patients with excessive tracheobronchial secretion and impaired mucociliary clearance.
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