In a recent study, a team of researchers reported that children with cerebral palsy experience significant improvements in respiratory function when taught to perform incentive spirometer exercise. The study, “Change in Pulmonary Function after Incentive Spirometer Exercise in Children with Spastic Cerebral Palsy: A Randomized Controlled Study,” was published in the Yonsei Medical Journal.
A team from the Research Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in Seoul, South Korea, investigated how incentive spirometer exercise, a technique that encourages patients to perform slow and deep breathing through visual feedback, impacts pulmonary function and maximal phonation time (an established parameter used to evaluate the efficiency of respiratory mechanisms during phonation; it is measured as the ability to maximally sustain a vowel sound after having taken a maximal inspiration) in children with spastic cerebral palsy.
This is especially important because children with cerebral palsy have a higher risk for respiratory dysfunction as a result of comorbidities such as pneumonia, atelectasis, bronchiectasis, sleep apnea, and chronic obstructive lung disease.
The research team recruited 50 children with cerebral palsy who were randomly assigned to either the experimental or the control group. Both groups underwent comprehensive rehabilitation therapy, but only children in the experimental group used a flow-oriented incentive spirometer, with children being encouraged to use the device for 10 to 15 breaths per session. In total, they underwent 10 sessions per day over a course of four weeks.
Children’s outcomes were measured with the Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM)-66 for monitoring improvements in motor function. A pulmonary function test was performed during the resting period — the period after physical and occupational therapy and ISE.
The authors observed that while children in the incentive spirometer exercise group had significant improvements in several parameters concerning lung function, including forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and FEV1/FVC ratio, as well as in maximal phonation time, those in the control group showed no significant beneficial changes.
The results suggested that incentive spirometer exercise increases both pulmonary function and breath control for speech production in children with cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is characterized by motor deficits as a result of abnormalities during utero development, and is estimated to occur in 2 of every 1,000 live births in developed countries.