Data on the effect on mucociliary clearance of oral high frequency oscillation is conflicting. By means of a technique to superimpose high frequency oscillation on tidal breathing, changes in mucociliary clearance during high frequency oscillation were studied in seven normal non-smokers by monitoring the clearance of inhaled radiolabelled aerosol from the lungs. After inhalation of 5 microns technetium 99m labelled particles under controlled conditions, whole lung clearance was monitored by scintillation counters half hourly for six hours with a final count at 24 hours, from which tracheobronchial deposition and clearance could be calculated. Control and high frequency oscillation studies were performed on separate days in random order. Oral high frequency oscillation was applied by a bass loudspeaker through a mouthpiece to superimpose sinewave oscillations (RMS input pressure 1.2 cm H2O, mean pressure zero) on normal breaths. On high frequency oscillation days 30 minutes of oscillation alternated with 30 min of rest. Between 3 and 4.5 hours mucociliary clearance with high frequency oscillation exceeded control by about 10% (p less than 0.05). The mean time taken to eliminate 90% of deposited radioaerosol from the tracheobronchial tree fell from 4 hours 50 minutes (range 1 h 52 min-6 h 50 min) during control to 3 hours 43 minutes (range 2 hr 28 min-5 hr 54 min) during the high frequency oscillation run (p less than 0.05). Possibly this comfortable, simple technique would be of therapeutic benefit to patients with chronic sputum retention and merits further investigation.
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