Autogenic Drainage (AD)

Autogenic drainage (AD) means “self-drainage” and uses different speeds of breathing to move mucus. To do it, your respiratory therapist can teach you how to control your breaths. You will learn how fast and deeply to breathe to fill certain parts of your lungs with air. AD can take some practice and is usually recommended for people age 8 and older. 

2 min read

To begin autogenic drainage (AD), sit in a relaxed seated position with your neck extended slightly. Blow your nose and huff cough to clear your upper airways of mucus. This technique has three phases.

Phase 1: Moving the mucus from the small airways (unsticking)

  • Start with breathing control: air in, air out.
  • Relax.
  • Take in a deep breath and blow all of the air out of your lungs until you feel like the lungs are empty of air.
  • Once the lungs are empty take in a small breath of air through your nose.
  • Hold the breath for three seconds then exhale all of the air out.
  • Repeat this two times.

Phase 2: Moving mucus from the small airways to the medium-sized airways (collecting)

  • Take in a normal sized breath.
  • Hold the breath for three seconds.
  • With some gentle force exhale all of the air out of your lungs. This may make you feel like you want to cough but hold the cough to the very end.
  • Repeat three times.

Phase 3: Moving mucus from the medium-sized airways to the large airways to be coughed out (evacuation)

  • Take in a deep breath.
  • Hold for three seconds.
  • With gentle force, exhale all of the air out of your lungs.
  • Repeat three times.
  • Do not cough until after the third breath.

Each phase should take two to three minutes to complete. Completing all three phases (one cycle) should take about six to nine minutes to complete. Repeat the cycle until you have cleared your lungs as much as possible, which should take between 20 and 45 minutes.

Share this article
Airway Clearance
You Might Also Be Interested
Have questions? We’re here to help. Call us at 1-800-FIGHT CF

Mon - Thu, 9 am - 5 pm ET
Fri, 9 am - 3 pm ET


More Ways To Get Help