Cerebral palsy (CP) is a functional neurological disorder characterized by impaired motor coordination. Classic CP is attributed to neonatal or early infancy brain injury arising from a variety of causes. It is the leading cause of childhood physical disability. Among the more than 600,000 Americans living with the disorder, one-third are classified as severely impaired and are at-risk for serious or fatal respiratory complications.
In severe CP, ineffective cough, uncoordinated swallowing, episodes of seizure, weak respiratory muscle function and immobility all contribute to a high incidence of pulmonary aspiration (swallowing and “going down the wrong pipe”).
When respiratory tract and/or oral secretions, food, liquids, and gastric acids contaminate the lungs, serious consequences follow, including:
- Obstructed airways
- More mucus production
- Poor lung function
- Lung infection
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Mucus plugging
- Lung damage
- Respiratory failure
- Premature death
A weakened pulmonary defense system requires therapeutic intervention. Aggressive attention to removal of excess mucus is central to breaking a cycle of recurrent infection and progressive pulmonary deterioration. Managing threats to respiratory health is a fundamental component of CP care.
Many physicians prescribe vest therapy for a subset of at-risk CP patients who cannot clear airway secretions without help. Therapy using techniques and methods that require a lot of effort on the part of the patient are generally unsuitable. In patients with ineffective cough, additional techniques or devices to clear secretions from central airways are also required.