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McHenry publishes guide for clinicians treating patients with ALS

Kristen McHenry headdhot.
Kristen McHenry

Kristen McHenry, an assistant professor for the degree advancement program with the Department of Respiratory Care, authored Airway Clearance Strategies and Secretion Management in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in the Respiratory Care Journal.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rare, neurodegenerative motor neuron disease that affects voluntary muscle movement. Patients with ALS often have difficulty in coughing, breathing and swallowing. The presence of a condition that affects the muscles in the mouth, throat and tongue – known as bulbar muscle predominant weakness – can result in harmful effects on airway clearance and secretion management.

McHenry’s article provides a practical guide for clinicians treating patients suffering from ALS and outlines the cough insufficiency in these patients. Typically patients suffering from ALS have a prolonged, slow and weak cough effort that prevents them from clearing away the mucus from their airway. The article looks further into the characteristics of the cough reflex, manual and mechanical cough assistance options, phlegm mobilization, and salivary secretion management, all of which are primary concerns in those with this debilitating neuromuscular disease. Her article examines the current practice parameters and clinical practice guidelines for the respiratory management of patients with ALS.

McHenry was an editorial intern for the Respiratory Care Journal from July 1 to December 31, 2022, and was encouraged to submit a manuscript to the journal as part of her service learning. McHenry has worked in a multidisciplinary ALS clinic since 2016. She knew that she wanted the topic of her paper to be related to ALS and the treatment options for airway clearance and secretion management as they are the most sought-after recommendations from patients. McHenry’s goal of the article was to have a comprehensive review of the literature that provided a practical narrative for anyone working with this patient population.

Boise State has three respiratory care programs: On Campus Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care Program, Registered Respiratory Therapy-Bachelor of Science Degree Advancement Online Program, and Master of Science in Respiratory Care.