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Health Beat: 3 new treatments for COPD

By Melanie Falcon, Anchor / Reporter, @Melanie_Falcon, MFalcon@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 25 2014 03:18:32 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 25 2014 04:47:53 PM CDT

It’s the third leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 130,000 Americans a year. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — COPD — can literally take a person’s breath away.

CLEVELAND -

Not long ago, crocheting was simply too much for Mary Morgan.

"I couldn't do it because my back hurt so badly, with every breath I was trying to take," said Morgan, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

The former pack-a-day smoker developed the disease at age 45.

"I knew what it was, but you know when you’re young, you think, ‘Ah, that can’t happen to me,'" Morgan said.

In COPD, the lungs become inflated and air is trapped. Doctors implanted tiny coils into Morgan's lungs to shrink them and restore elasticity.

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"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 Dr. Atul C. Mehta, professor of medicine, staff, respiratory institute, The Cleveland Clinic.

Studies in Europe showed the experimental procedure improved lung function by 18 percent.

The Lung Flute is another new therapy for COPD. When patients blow, sound waves travel down the airways and mobilize mucus. Studies show 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. Sanjay Sethi, professor of medicine and chief of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine at UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

In a nationwide study, COPD patients who took the common antibiotic azithromycin daily, along with their regular medication, reported fewer symptom flare-ups.

"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, The University of Michigan Health System.

Morgan still needs oxygen, but after her the coil procedure, she feels good enough to walk the treadmill.

"I just felt such a release, and that was immediately," Morgan said.

Now, she can breathe a little easier and move a little more.

The Lung Flute is FDA-approved, but a doctor's prescription is needed to get one.

The coil procedure is performed as part of a clinical trial. Researchers are still enrolling patients.

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