Don’t Land In The Hospital With COPD
Prevention and Treatment Many of the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients that come to my office suffer from chronic bronchitis with symptoms of cough and excess mucus (or sputum, phlegm) production.
Unfortunately, in severe cases of chronic bronchitis, the mucus accumulates in their lungs to such a degree that they are not able to breathe. This breathlessness decreases quality of life and can lead to a hospital admission. This condition is referred to as a lung attack or acute exacerbation and is one of the most common reasons for hospital admissions in Canada. The majority of acute exacerbations are caused by infection.
Preventing lung attacks
It is important, therefore, to attempt to prevent infections and lung attacks that can cause faster progression of the disease. One important factor is to encourage those with COPD to keep their airways clear by practicing breathing exercises, special coughing techniques, daily exercise and maintaining their medications. Smoking cessation is a must.
"For patients, OPEP devices are easy to use, convenient, and an all-natural (non-medication) treatment method."
The Canadian Thoracic Society guidelines outline further treatment protocol based on the level of lung function impairment from mild to very severe cases of COPD. Other important factors can include exercise, proper nutrition, vaccination and medications.
Although most COPD patients with chronic lung infections benefit from some form of physical airway clearance along with their medication, the current breathing techniques are often tiring and rely on the patient to perform them correctly. As a result, compliance with this form of therapy is very low.
Drug treatment tends to be the most preferred method, but may actually not be completely effective in achieving adequate airway clearance. Each patient’s COPD is unique and may need a variety of therapies to keep their airways clear. The goal is to ensure the patient can maintain their treatments to control their symptoms, breathe easier, enjoy a better quality of life and ultimately stay out of the hospital.
Easy-to-use, drug-free device
Recently I came across a new drug-free device that looks promising. A new study by researchers at Western University reported a significant improvement in breathlessness in patients with COPD after using a Oscillating Positive Expiratory Pressure Therapy system (OPEP).
"Drug treatment tends to be the most preferred method, but may actually not be completely effective in achieving adequate airway clearance."
The system offers pulses of resistance to the exhaled breath, working with the natural function of the lung to help loosen and move the excess mucus to where it can be coughed out. Patients also reported improved ease in bringing up phlegm. Using MRI lung image results pre- and post- usage, some patients also showed better gas distribution and reduced gas trapping throughout the lungs which ultimately meant they were able to breathe easier.
For patients, OPEP devices are easy to use, convenient, and an all-natural (non-medication) treatment method. They are available at the pharmacy counter.