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Respiratory physiotherapy: An update for the adult population

CPD Hours



Clinical practice and procedures
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The earliest evidence to support the use of respiratory physiotherapy in practice dates back to the early 1900s when chest injured patients from the First World War were treated with postural drainage, breathing exercises, and physical activity.  

Since then a wide variety of techniques have been introduced to improve lung function, enhance the removal of airway secretions, and prevent respiratory complications. Interventions, including techniques for airway clearance and lung expansion, ventilator-associated therapies, and post-operative breathing aids, have been applied to a broad range of hospital settings including acute and critically ill patients and rehabilitation.  

Unfortunately, limited supporting evidence and practitioner variability continue to challenge the quality and efficacy of respiratory physiotherapy in practice. Ongoing dedication to quality research and clinical excellence is required to enhance best practice.

Learning Objective

At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • Identify the goals of respiratory physiotherapy
  • Describe airway clearance techniques including breathing exercises, postural drainage, manual techniques, suctioning, autogenic drainage, and positive expiratory pressure
  • Identify the characteristics of lung expansion techniques
  • Highlight indications for non-invasive ventilation
  • Review the procedure for conducting manual and ventilator hyperinflation in intubated and mechanically ventilated patients

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