Clearing sputum: active cycle of breathing technique (ACBT)

The Active Cycle of Breathing Technique (ACBT):

  • Is easy to learn, including a cycle of breathing techniques: breathing control, deep breathing and “huffing”. It can be adapted to the individual’s needs.
  • No equipment is needed and the person can learn to do ACBT without assistance so that it can be done anywhere at any time.
  • It is usually the first Airway Clearance Technique of choice.

You can see the ACBT in real time in the following film clip.

View text transcript

This is a short video to show a short demonstration of the active cycle of breathing to help clear secretions of the chest.

What we are going to do first of all is, I will talk you through the technique and then we will run through it together.

First of all we need three deep breaths. So it’s going to be a nice big deep breath in. Hold for three and then just sigh gently out. We will do three breaths, then we will go to breathing control which is your slow normal breathing and then back to three deep breaths again. We will then go on to the huff which is when we are trying to move the secretions and make them rumble. A huff is a medium sized breath in as you breathe out as if you are steaming up a mirror or a glass when you clean it. (Like a forced sigh) Yours will sound grumbly. You are going to keep on doing that until you feel the urge to cough. Then you are going to cough to clear any secretions which are there.

Three slow deep breaths in and out when you are ready. Some normal relaxed breaths. When you feel ready do another three slow deep breaths. A couple of relaxed breaths and when you are ready go on to your huff. Repeat the huff two or three times until you have the urge to cough.

Once you have cleared your chest have a few normal relaxed breaths and start the cycle over again with deep breaths and huffs.

Three slow deep breaths, followed by normal breaths. Three deep breaths followed by the huff breaths until you feel the urge to cough.