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ADOPTED PROJECT: ExACT-CF: Exercise as an Airway Clearance Technique in people with Cystic Fibrosis – A randomised pilot trial

ADOPTED PROJECT: ExACT-CF: Exercise as an Airway Clearance Technique in people with Cystic Fibrosis – A randomised pilot trial

Principal Investigators: Dr Don UrquhartDr Zoe Saynor

Co Applicants:

Mrs Lorna Allen (Cystic Fibrosis Trust), Professor Steve Cunningham, Professor Ioannis VogiatzisProfessor Steff Lewis, Ms Aileen Neilson

Partners: University of Portsmouth, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, University of Edinburgh, University of Northumbria at Newcastle, Cystic Fibrosis Trust, CF Warriors (Charity)

Starts: May 2022

Ends: 31 October 2023


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the UK’s most common inherited genetic condition and affects more than 10,500 people. The disease causes problems with the movement of salt and water in the body, resulting in sticky mucus building up, mostly in the lungs and gut. Thick mucus in the airways leads to repeated infections which, over time, damage the lungs. Chest physiotherapy is prescribed to loosen and clear sticky thick mucus from the airways and so to help to reduce lung infection.

Chest physiotherapy is a routine treatment to keep people with CF healthy. However, many say it is time consuming and a burden. People with CF have asked if doing exercise could have the same effect as chest physiotherapy sessions for helping clear mucus. Exercise could be more enjoyable and less burdensome. Through a recognised priority setting partnership, the CF community recently ranked research to ‘reduce the burden of their care’ and answer ‘whether exercise can replace chest physiotherapy’, as their number 1 and 7 priorities. Surveys show that many people with CF have occasionally chosen to replace chest physiotherapy with exercise for airway clearance, and we recently confirmed this through a UK-wide survey. We now need to know if they would be willing to take part in research that asks some to stop chest physiotherapy and to exercise (with coughs and huffs) instead.

New medicine (modulators) have recently become available for many people with CF, bringing dramatic improvements in their health. Some people who have started modulators are considering whether they can reduce or stop treatments – including chest physiotherapy. So, we need to know the effects of stopping chest physiotherapy and determine if exercise can be used instead - our study aims to understand this. Our recent survey in people with CF, their families, physiotherapists and doctors, showed us that many consider hard exercise with coughs and huffs to be able to clear mucus from the airways. 

We will study 50 people with CF (>12 years old) for 28-days. We will ask half of them to continue their usual care, and half to stop chest physiotherapy and do exercise that gets them breathing deeply (with coughs and huffs) instead. We will see if people are willing to start and continue with such a study and what they think of the study processes. We will also see how stopping chest physiotherapy and replacing it with exercise affects measurements of their lung function. Within the study we will talk with people with CF and members of their CF team to understand their experiences. This information will tell us whether a larger study can answer

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