Cystic fibrosis is a genetically inherited, life-threatening condition that affects major organs. The management of cystic fibrosis involves a multi-faceted daily treatment regimen that includes airway clearance techniques, pancreatic enzymes and other medications. Previous studies have found that compliance with this intensive treatment is poor, especially among adolescents. Because of both the nature and consequences of the illness and the relentless demands of the treatment, many individuals with cystic fibrosis have a poor quality of life. Anecdotal reports suggest that singing may provide both appropriate exercise for the whole respiratory system and a means of emotional expression which may enhance quality of life. This is an update of a previously published review.
To evaluate the effects of singing as an adjunct therapy to standard treatment on the quality of life, morbidity, respiratory muscle strength and pulmonary function of children and adults with cystic fibrosis.
We searched the Group's Cystic Fibrosis Trials Register and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Date of latest search: 07 January 2019.
We also searched major allied complementary data bases, and clinical trial registers. Additionally, we handsearched relevant conference proceedings and journals. Date of latest search: 28 March 2019.
Randomised controlled trials in which singing (as an adjunct intervention) is compared with either a control intervention (for example, playing computer games or doing craft activities) or no singing in people with cystic fibrosis.
Data collection and analysis
Results of searches were reviewed against pre-determined criteria for inclusion. Only one eligible trial was available for analysis.
Since only one small study (n = 40) was included, no meta-analysis could be performed. The included randomised controlled study was of parallel design and undertaken at two paediatric hospitals in Australia. The study evaluated the effects of a singing program on the quality of life and respiratory muscle strength of hospitalised children with cystic fibrosis (mean age 11.6 years, 35% male). While the singing group received eight individual singing sessions, the control group participated in preferred recreational activities, such as playing computer games or watching movies. This study was limited by a small sample size (51 participants) and a high drop-out rate (21%).
There were no differences between the groups at either post-intervention or follow-up; although by the end of treatment there were some improvements in some of the domains of the quality of life questionnaire Cystic Fibrosis Questionnaire-Revised (e.g. emotional, social and vitality domains) for both singing and control groups. For the respiratory muscle strength indices, maximal expiratory pressure at follow-up (six to eight weeks post-intervention) was higher in the singing group, mean difference 25.80 (95% confidence interval 5.94 to 45.66). There was no difference between groups for any of the other respiratory function parameters (maximal inspiratory pressure, spirometry) at either post-intervention or follow-up. No adverse effects were observed in the singing group; adverse events for the control group were not reported in the paper.
There is insufficient evidence to determine the effects of singing on quality of life or on the respiratory parameters in people with cystic fibrosis. However, there is growing interest in non-medical treatments for cystic fibrosis and researchers may wish to investigate the impact of this inexpensive therapy on respiratory function and psychosocial well-being further in the future.