Respiratory muscle training for cystic fibrosis

Nathan Hilton*, Arturo Solis-Moya

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Cystic fibrosis is the most common autosomal recessive disease in white populations, and causes respiratory dysfunction in the majority of individuals. Numerous types of respiratory muscle training to improve respiratory function and health-related quality of life in people with cystic fibrosis have been reported in the literature. Hence a systematic review of the literature is needed to establish the effectiveness of respiratory muscle training (either inspiratory or expiratory muscle training) on clinical outcomes in cystic fibrosis. This is an update of a previously published review. Objectives: To determine the effectiveness of respiratory muscle training on clinical outcomes in people with cystic fibrosis. Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Disorders Group Trials register comprising of references identified from comprehensive electronic database searches and handsearches of relevant journals and abstract books of conference proceedings. Date of most recent search: 17 April 2018. A hand search of the Journal of Cystic Fibrosis and Pediatric Pulmonology was performed, along with an electronic search of online trial databases up until 07 May 2018. Selection criteria: Randomised controlled studies comparing respiratory muscle training with a control group in people with cystic fibrosis. Data collection and analysis: Review authors independently selected articles for inclusion, evaluated the methodological quality of the studies, and extracted data. Additional information was sought from trial authors where necessary. The quality of the evidence was assessed using the GRADE system Main results: Authors identified 19 studies, of which nine studies with 202 participants met the review's inclusion criteria. There was wide variation in the methodological and written quality of the included studies. Four of the nine included studies were published as abstracts only and lacking concise details, thus limiting the information available. Seven studies were parallel studies and two of a cross-over design. Respiratory muscle training interventions varied dramatically, with frequency, intensity and duration ranging from thrice weekly to twice daily, 20% to 80% of maximal effort, and 10 to 30 minutes, respectively. Participant numbers ranged from 11 to 39 participants in the included studies; five studies were in adults only and four in a combination of children and adults. No significant improvement was reported in the primary outcome of pulmonary function (forced expiratory volume in one second and forced vital capacity) (very low-quality evidence). Although no change was reported in exercise capacity as assessed by the maximum rate of oxygen use, a 10% improvement in exercise duration was found when working at 60% of maximal effort in one study (n = 20) (very low-quality evidence). In a further study (n = 18), when working at 80% of maximal effort, health-related quality of life improved in the mastery and emotion domains (very low-quality evidence). With regards to the review's secondary outcomes, one study (n = 11) found a significant change in intramural pressure, functional residual capacity and maximal inspiratory pressure following training (low-quality evidence). A further study (n = 22) reported that respiratory muscle endurance was significantly longer in the training group (P < 0.01). No studies reported on any other secondary outcomes. Meta-analyses could not be performed due to a lack of consistency and insufficient detail in reported outcome measures. Authors' conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to suggest whether this intervention is beneficial or not. Healthcare practitioners should consider the use of respiratory muscle training on a case-by-case basis. Further research of reputable methodological quality is needed to determine the effectiveness of respiratory muscle training in people with cystic fibrosis. Researchers should consider the following clinical outcomes in future studies; respiratory muscle function, pulmonary function, exercise capacity, hospital admissions, and health-related quality of life. Sensory-perceptual changes, such as respiratory effort sensation (e.g. rating of perceived breathlessness) and peripheral effort sensation (e.g. rating of perceived exertion) may also help to elucidate mechanisms underpinning the effectiveness of respiratory muscle training.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD006112
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2018


  • cystic fibrosis


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