The value of PEP in obstructive lung disease

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) sometimes claim to experience immediate subjective benefit when they purse their lips while exhaling. It’s called pursed lips breathing and results in a positive expiratory pressure (PEP).

Are they wasting their breath?

First, the details.

  • Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden identified 11 studies worth reviewing.

And, the results.

  • Several kinds of PEP to prevent and treat adults with COPD were studied.
  • There were differences in intensities and durations of treatment, and different outcome measures and follow-up periods.
  • There was some benefit based on isolated individual measures of response in the short term (less than 1 month).
  • There was no consensus on the long-term effects.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded that before making widespread recommendations for using PEP treatment, “more research is required to establish the benefit of the technique in patients with COPD.”

PEP is one of several approaches to mobilizing secretions and treating atelectasis (partial or complete collapse of the lung). Other techniques include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), and expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP).

10/11/08 13:09 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.