Has anyone tried either the Cough Assist machine or the Hill-Rom vibrating Vest airway clearance system?

I am looking for something to help my Dad who has COPD with thick sputum that is very hard to clear and a constantly painful tight chest from struggling to breathe. He is 78 and very underweight and weak so needs something that will loosen/clear phlegm but without being too rigourous on his body. Any advice or experiences with these gadgets would be a great help. They are VERY expensive so can't afford to make a mistake!

17 Replies

  • Before spending lots of money on this device has your dad been prescribed Carbocisteine ?Its very good for thinning out mucous to help to bring it up. xx

  • Hi iviviv

    Has your dad been seen by a doctor? We would suggest before buying an expensive product you speak to his GP to ask for an urgent referral to a chest physiotherspist and to a community matron to help with this issue.

    There may be other things that can be prescribed to help with the thick sputum such as nebulised saline or mucolytics which can help to thin the sputum making it easier for your dad to bring up off his chest.

    If you would like to discuss this further please don't hesitate to call us on 03000 030 555.

    Best Wishes


  • Hello iviviv, Your poor dad has my sympathy with the sputum problem, I have had this all my life.

    I would say Jo Newton's advice is very good so talk to them first.

    I am now 64 and have found the best way to remove my sputum is the Lung Flute mucus clearing device. It works using a silent resonant frequency of 15 -25hz, and is very effective for "lifting" and bringing up sputum from the bottom and all areas of the lungs.

    We are all different but if he can blow a candle out then he should be able to use this simple device.

    hope this helps.


  • Hello Su and thank you for the tip and for your kind sympathy. I'm sorry to hear you've suffered this all your life. That must have been really hard. At least my Dad had the good luck to be pretty healthy up until his 70's (tho he did have TB when he was early 20's which may be why he was susceptible to problems now)

    I was very interested in this Lung Flute you mentioned. I wondered if it works in the same way as the Acapella or the Flutter which vibrate a wee metal ball and send vibrations into lung to loosen phlegm? Dad has just started using an Acapella this week and says it does help loosen things up. He's still very sore and worn out with the actual retching the phlegm out of his chest so we're still on the lookout for useful devices to make clearing his lungs less debilitating.

    Thanks again for your message and I wish you the best health possible,


  • Clair, I also use an Acapella and Flutter, both are good but take more effort than the Lung Flute, It is best to use an inhaler like Ventolin first, also I use saline in my nebuliser if I am having difficulty.

    The resonant frequency 15-25hz is the frequency needed to break up mucus, it is critical, the only reason I know about it is because my dad worked with acoustics.

    I bought the Lung Flute from lungentrainer.de/de/Atemweg... in Germany for about £44. I found it only by lucky chance.

    I hope he feels better soon and gets the help he needs.


  • Dear Su, I will definitely try and get hold of a flute for Dad. Everything I'm reading about it since you tipped me off is very positive and encouraging. Thanks again for taking the time to pass on such useful info,

    All the best,


  • Thank you so much for the answers you have written ( and so quickly) I just joined today and wasn't sure what to expect but what a fast and helpful response!! Will definitely talk to GP and to consultant at bronchiectasis clinic. Been doing home IV antibiotic treatments for nearly 4 years now from clinic at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Hopefully they'll have heard of cough assist tho they hadn't come across the clearance vest when I inquired. Got oxygen and nebulisers at home too but really hoping there's something else out there to help a very exhausted man who is worn out from trying to expel this stubborn mucous every day

  • I have been using the Flutter for quite a while; it's very effective most of the time, but occasionally takes a while to work. It is a great bit of kit, pocket sized and easy to use. (After a nurse showed me the best way to make it work). The most noticeable time is first thing in the morning when it shifts the overnight debris from my chest.

  • Thanks moneal, Dad has just started using a thing called the Acapella which I think is very similar to the Flutter. He is quite impressed with it so far.

    It still takes some pretty violent retching to actually spit up what is loosened though. If only as well as a mucous loosener there was also a gadget that hoovered it out !!

  • Yep I think we would all love one of those, Breathing exercises help and Carbocisteine really does soften up the rubbish.

    Talk to the respiratory nurses about how to use the Accapella, it made a huge difference to me once they explained the best technique of using the flutter and the correct way of breathing while doing it.

    As everyone one here will tell you there is no easy way to shift it completely, but there are ways that make it not quite so horrible to do.

  • I have not heard of these devices. But I am interested in something to thin the phlegm as I am always choking on it through the night or upon waking up. I hope you find something to do that rather than spending out a lot of money xxxxx

  • The hunt for miracle gadget continues tho may have to abandon idea of Cough Assist as it is looking like it is really just for people who are paralysed or have severely limited use of coughing muscles. Dad has fully functioning muscles just really really tired ones!

  • HI, iviviv, just curious what gadget your dad find most useful? i am in a smilar boat here searching for a device for my dad

  • Hello newbie2016,

    In the end I didn't get the vest. They are thousands of pounds and usually in a hospital for people who are lying in bed immobile. In US people seem to buy them privately for home use but not here.

    By taking mucodyne liquid and using his acapella dad seems to have got on top of his mucous trouble. Sometimes he hardly has any in fact. We keep a close watch on how his lungs are and jump on any infections that crop up pretty quick. He gets IV piperacillin/tazobactam every 10 to 12 weeks plus whichever tablets will kill the bugs he sometimes gets in between. At the moment he's on doxycycline for strep.pueumoniae and seems to be clearing it up.

    I hope you can find some good help for your dad and keep him as healthy as possible. It's not easy though and I wish you all the best,


    Ps. I just noticed on your other post that you ARE in the US. In that case you probably could get a vibrating vest as they seemed to be very available there and I'd imagine bit more affordable than here in UK. It did look pretty good I must say. However if your dad is very frail and elderly it might be too vigorous for him. My dad is in his 80's now and very, very thin so I doubt he could wear one even if I did my hands on one. On a younger, more solid person it would be worth having a go. Good luck.

  • Hi, Clair, thanks so much for the tips! super helpful!

    I am looking into cough flute, cough assist, and vibrating vest things.. It seems like some of those need prescriptions.. I can not just order from internet..

  • The cough assist is the best thing I have ever used. Expensive, yes, liberating, yes! I was left exhausted after trying to clear my lungs but this device does most of the work, it is not only for paralysed people. I have had severe bronch for 68 years with many hospitalizations and gallons og mucous every day.

  • Hello, everyone, thanks so much for all the information, Just bumped into this thread while searching for a cough assist gadget for my dad.

    @Buggylung, do you happen to know where can I get this Cough Assist online? It would be great if they could ship to US. I live in US.

    thanks so much,


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