A randomised controlled equivalence trial to determine the effectiveness and cost-utility of manual chest physiotherapy techniques in the management of exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (MATREX).

The objective of this study was to estimate the effect, if any, of manual chest physiotherapy (MCP) administered to patients hospitalised with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbation on both disease-specific and generic health-related quality of life. To compare the health service costs for those receiving and not receiving MCP. 526 participants aged 34-91 years were recruited between November 2005 and April 2008; of these, 372 provided evaluable data for the primary outcome. All persons hospitalised with COPD exacerbation and evidence of sputum production on examination were eligible for the trial providing there were no contraindications to performing MCP. Participants were allocated to either MCP or no MCP on an intention-to-treat (ITT) basis. However, active cycle of breathing techniques (ACBT) was used in both arms. Participants allocated to the intervention were guided to perform ACBT while the physiotherapist delivered MCP. Participants allocated to the control arm received instruction on ACBT only. The primary outcome was COPD-specific quality of life, measured using the St George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) at 6 months post randomisation. The European Quality of Life-5 Dimensions (EQ-5D) questionnaire was used to calculate the quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gain associated with MCP compared with no MCP. Secondary physiological outcome measures were also used.

In terms of longer-term quality of life the use of MCP did not appear to affect outcome. However, this does not mean that MCP is of no therapeutic value to patients with COPD in specific circumstances. Although the cost-effectiveness analysis suggested that its use was cost-effective, much uncertainty was associated with this finding and it would be difficult to justify providing MCP therapy on the basis of cost-effectiveness alone. Future research should include evaluation of MCP for patients with COPD producing high volumes of sputum, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of ACBT in COPD exacerbation

Cross J, Elender F, Barton G, Clark A, Shepstone L, Blyth A, Bachmann M, Harvey I,. A randomised controlled equivalence trial to determine the effectiveness and cost-utility of manual chest physiotherapy techniques in the management of exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (MATREX). Health Technol Assess. 2010 May;14(23):1-176

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