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“Chest Physiotherapy,” by Susan Hamilton, MS, RN, for OPENPediatrics

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“Chest Physiotherapy,” by Susan Hamilton, MS, RN, for OPENPediatrics

Learn about the proper patient positioning and techniques used to perform chest physiotherapy, including percussion, vibration, and postural drainage.

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Chest Physiotherapy, by Susan Hamilton.

Health care workers in all health care settings should always adhere to the latest World Health Organization guidelines on hand hygiene and barrier precautions before and after contact with the patient, bodily fluids, or patient surroundings. For more information, please watch our video entitled Hand Hygiene.


Hi, I’m Sue Hamilton. I’m a nurse educator at Children’s Hospital Boston. I’m here to talk to you today about some techniques of chest physical therapy that include percussion, vibration and postural drainage.

Indications. Chest physiotherapy is used to help improve a patient’s pulmonary function, including gas exchange and lung compliance. This is accomplished through mobilizing secretions, which are present in the artificial airways and/or lungs of a critically-ill child. You would want to perform this procedure in order to stimulate a productive cough and improve aeration in patients with disorders that result in mucus production. These disorders include, but are not limited to, pneumonia, acute atelectasis, bronchiolitis, cystic fibrosis.

Contraindications. Some health care providers would refrain from performing this procedure in patients with active hemoptysis or coagulopathy, which is characterized by a platelet count of less than 50,000. You should also exercise caution in patients with rib fractures or metastases, an active pulmonary embolism, an untreated pneumothorax, a bone density deficiency, or recent spinal injury or surgery.

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