London - A vibrating vest has been developed to help those with cystic fibrosis and other lung conditions breathe more easily.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition in which the lungs and digestive system become clogged with especially thick, sticky mucus that clings to the airways. Left alone this not only interferes with breathing, it can give rise to infection.
It is the most common inherited disorder in the UK, affecting about 10 000 Britons.
Treatment involves alleviating symptoms, and clearing the mucus. Physiotherapy exercises such as chest vibration — manually vibrating the chest or changing the body’s position — lying on the back, side or front can help but these often need to be done daily, and sometimes up to four times a day.
Patients with other lung conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which affects around three million people in the UK, have similar problems as the condition also causes more mucus than normal.
COPD is a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease.
The vest is designed to help by vibrating the chest area to shake up the secretions and mucus, which can then be expelled through normal coughing.
It could also help those with neuromuscular disorders such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy — where patients, through muscular weakness, lose the ability to breathe and clear their airways as normal.
The cordless Chestmaster, which looks like a black, sleeveless vest with a zipper on the front, has eight metal coils in different sections — these coils vibrate and pummel targeted sites of the chest painlessly. It is much easier than physio for the patient because they can carry out the therapy when and as often as they like. And, unlike many of the physiotherapy exercises, it can be done without assistance.
Each of the eight coils in the battery-powered vest can be individually adjusted, so the vibration targets the areas of the lungs that are most congested. Researchers say the vest, which has undergone trials at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, will help improve quality of life, too.
It has been designed for use at home and allows the patients to move freely while using the device. They say: “This technology has the potential to provide a fundamental shift in the standard of care for patients suffering from cystic fibrosis and other conditions where airway clearance is required.”
Dr Janet Allen, director of research at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said: “This is an interesting development. It is encouraging to see people with cystic fibrosis looking for new ways to adhere to physiotherapy, which is a key part of the fight against infection. As with all new devices, it is essential that controlled trials are performed using this new technology to see if there is a clinical benefit over and above existing techniques.”
- Daily Mail