It is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 130,000 Americans a year.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, called COPD, can literally take a person’s breath away. Now, three new treatments may help patients breathe more easily.
Crocheting used to be too much for Mary Morgan.
“I couldn’t do it because my back hurt so bad, every breath I was trying to take,” said Mary.
The former pack-a-day smoker developed the disease at age 45.
“I knew what it was, but you know you just, when you’re young, you think, ‘ah that can’t happen to me,’ you know,” she said.
With COPD, the lungs become inflated and air is trapped. To restore elasticity, doctors implanted tiny coils into Mary’s lungs.
“When you release them into the lungs, they just coil up and what they do is they draw the hyper-inflated lung close together,” said Doctor Atul C. Mehta, Professor of Medicine at The Cleveland Clinic.
Studies in Europe showed the experimental procedure improved lung function by 18 percent.
This lung flute is another new therapy for COPD. When patients blow, sound waves travel down the airways and mobilize mucus. Using it twice a day improves lung congestion.
“It helps with the clearance of the mucus and essentially, then they feel better the rest of the day,” said Dr. Mehta.
In a nationwide study, COPD patients who took the common antibiotic azithromycin daily, along with their regular meds, had fewer episodes.
“We were able to demonstrate that you were able to significantly decrease, by more than 20 percent the rate of these flare-ups in at-risk people,” said Dr. Fernando Martinez, Director of Pulmonary Diagnostic Services at The University of Michigan.
Mary still needs oxygen, but after her the coil procedure, she feels good enough to walk the treadmill.
“I just felt, like, ahh, such a release, and that was immediately,” she said.
Now, she can breathe a little easier and move a little more.
The lung flute requires a doctor’s prescription. The coil procedure is still in clinical trials.