A clinical pilot study: High frequency chest wall oscillation airway clearance in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Kathleen Marya Chaisson, Susan Walsh, Zachary Simmons, Robert L. Vender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Respiratory complications are common in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) with respiratory failure representing the most common cause of death. Ineffective airway clearance resultant from deficient cough frequently contributes to these abnormalities. We sought to evaluate the effectiveness of high frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) administered through the Vest™ Airway Clearance System when added to standard care in preventing pulmonary complications and prolonging the time to death in patients with ALS. This is a single center study performed at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center (HMC). Nine patients with a diagnosis of ALS and concurrently receiving non-invasive ventilatory support with bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) were recruited from the outpatient clinic at HMC. Four patients were randomized to receive standard care and five patients to receive standard care plus the addition of HFCWO administered twice-daily for 15 min duration. Longitudinal assessments of oxyhemoglobin saturation, forced vital capacity (FVC), and adverse events were obtained until time of death. Pulmonary complications of atelectasis, pneumonia, hospitalization for a respiratory-related abnormality, and tracheostomy with mechanical ventilation were monitored throughout the study duration. No differences were observed between treatment groups in relation to the rate of decline in FVC. The addition of HFCWO airway clearance failed to improve time to death compared to standard treatment alone (340 days +/- 247 vs. 470 days +/- 241; p=0.26). The random allocation of HFCWO airway clearance to patients with ALS concomitantly receiving BiPAP failed to attain any significant clinical benefits in relation to either loss of lung function or mortality. This study does not exclude the potential benefit of HFCWO in select patients with ALS who have coexistent pulmonary diseases, pre-existent mucus-related pulmonary complications, or less severe levels of respiratory muscle weakness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-111
Number of pages5
JournalAmyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'A clinical pilot study: High frequency chest wall oscillation airway clearance in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this