Two airway clearance vests surrounded by breathing hoses and stars

Ask The Advocates: Airway Clearance Vests

If you or a loved one have cystic fibrosis, using an airway clearance vest is a familiar practice to you. Choosing a vest, on the other hand? That may be more difficult. There are a lot of factors to consider! Thankfully, there is a whole selection of airway clearance vests on the market, including multiple kinds from Hill-Rom, AffloVest, Electromed, and RespirTech - just to name a few.

Where do we even begin? Well, we would recommend starting with the CF pros. We asked our team of cystic fibrosis patients and caregivers what vest they use for airway clearance and about their favorites. Here is what they had to say:

Airway clearance vests for cystic fibrosis

Hill-Rom 105 Vest and the Hill-Rom Monarch Airway Clearance System

Response from Janeil Whitworth

I feel like everyone has their own preference when it comes to airway clearance, similar to an individual's coffee order. I own both the classic and massive Hill-Rom 105 Vest and the Hill-Rom Monarch Airway Clearance System. I must be old-school because I actually prefer my classic Hill-Rom Vest over my Monarch. The Monarch feels so heavy and hurts my boney arms and chest, but I do enjoy the mobility and how easy it is to travel with it. However, the classic Hill-Rom Vest is like a giant hug reminding you, “You rock!” and that after a long day of fighting cystic fibrosis that’s a comfort to me.

Afflovest

Response from Marieliz Landa

I use the AffloVest and the reason is that it has three different settings that target different areas of the lungs. Since my mucus is thick and I have lung damage, there are areas that the mucus can get stuck in that a single setting vest may not be able to fully help extract or loosen. The AffloVest fulfills all those needs, plus the timer provides me the ease of just pushing start and letting it do its job. Plus, it is also battery-operated, meaning I can do other things while doing my vest and it provides freedom to move around different rooms of the house, so I am not stuck in one area. It comes with a carrying case with wheels, so it is easily portable if I am traveling.

Philips InCourage vest (RespirTech)

Response from Meagan Brackeen

Margo uses the Philips InCourage vest (RespirTech) for airway clearance. We got the vest when she turned three as an additional option for her to choose from. However, Margo’s favorite and preferred form of airway clearance is manual treatment. She calls them “beat beats” and it is a source of comfort for her. She gets to watch her favorite shows or movies and have physical touch with one of her parents.

Hill-Rom’s The Vest

Response from Holly Williams

We use Hill-Rom’s The Vest. We love it for my daughter BUT the velcro on the vest wears out every six months or so. That’s our only complaint. I like how we can adjust the settings both in intensity and time. It’s also the vest our hospital and clinic uses so when we have admissions it’s easy for my toddler to transition to their vest!

Hill-Rom The Vest Airway Clearance System

Response from Kenny Boutot

I have been using the Hill-Rom The Vest Airway Clearance System since 1995, graduating with each new model and appreciating each improvement in portability. Even after 26 years, this is my daily vest treatment, in use three times a day.

It has been such a substantial part of my life that, when I was heading off to college, my grandfather, who was a skilled carpenter, built a full cabinet to store the vest, nebulizer, inhaled meds, and spare neb cups and vest components. That cabinet has stuck with me since and stays in use just as much as the vest itself.

I was also fortunate to get a Monarch once it became covered by insurance, and that made a significant improvement in my travel life. I have the ability to use my Vest the morning I travel without having to pack it up right after, saving time. More than that, the space and weight of the Monarch make packing and flying so much easier, and the battery operation fits in with staying in unfamiliar places. I feel really good about the one-two punch I have against CF when it comes to vests.

Hill-Rom vest

Response from Katelyn Harlow

For years I have used the Hill-Rom vest. I only had one other vest before the Hill-Rom vest. It was that massive suitcase-sized vest from the 90s! One thing I love about the newer vest is how portable it is and how light it is! I have used the Monarch vest and it very handy to have, but it took a while for me to get used the weight and pressure. I prefer using the Hill-Rom vest, but I feel like both do their job well!

It's changed over time, but now I have the AffloVest

Response from Nicole Driscoll

The concept of an airway clearance vest has been a game-changer for me. I have been fortunate enough to have had 3 different vests over the course of my lifetime. When I was little, my mom was the champion, doing my airway clearance manually in between my daily treatments. Looking back, I don't know how she did that but am so grateful for her dedication and strength (literally).

My first vest had tubing attached to a large, heavy machine, but at the time, it was so great to be able to administer my treatment on my own and allow me to continue to develop my independence with managing cystic fibrosis. This device was so large and heavy that I rarely traveled with it and had to resort to manual airway clearance whenever I was away from home. When I went away to college, we brought this huge machine and I kept it in the corner of my dorm room. This machine allowed me to be independent while enabling my ability to manage my CF and keep up with my treatments.

Years later I was upgraded to a second vest, similar with tubing, but attached to a much smaller, lighter machine that fits in a duffle bag which allowed for travel. This was a welcomed change and made traveling with the vest more feasible. Most recently, I have had the opportunity to obtain the AffloVest which is a complete game-changer. This vest is battery-operated and can be worn without being hooked up to any tubing. The vest is worn like a boat life jacket and allows me to move around as needed while being able to receive airway clearance. This device also fits in a duffle bag; even smaller than my other vest and makes travel even more convenient which enables consistent compliance with my treatments.

What's your favorite vest?

As you can tell, there are many different options when it comes to airway clearance vests for people with cystic fibrosis. Each of these advocates has shared their favorite(s) with you, but we want to hear what you think! Share your favorite vest with us in the comments below.

Read some of our other Ask The Advocate articles:

  • If You Could Have Any Career, What Would It Be and Why?
  • How Has CF Impacted Your Romantic Relationship(s)?
  • What Is a “Nonclassic” Cystic Fibrosis Symptom That You Experience?
  • What Does Advocacy Mean to You?
  • What Are Your Thoughts on Five Feet Apart?
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