A recent press release from the University of Southampton reveals that a recently completed study outlines specific breathing tests to check for particular aspects of lung functioning, which can be performed in a general practitioner’s office instead of hospitals. The primary goal of this study is to try and diagnose Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) in its earlier stages and distinguish it from conditions that present similar symptoms.
COPD is a collective term used to denote a number of progressive lung conditions, including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma and chronic obstructive airways disease — all of which cause entrapment of air within the lungs and alveoli. The entrapment of air leads to hardened muscles in the lungs and loss of elasticity, causing coughing with mucoid sputum, chest discomfort, breathing problems (dyspnoea) and obstructive sleep apnea, all of which get worse with time.
The main cause of COPD is exposure to tobacco smoke, and sometimes allergens and air pollutants. However, apart from COPD, other respiratory conditions (upper and lower respiratory tract infections) also begin with bouts of coughing and chest discomfort. This leads to people mistaking the initial stages of COPD as “smoker’s cough,” resulting in misdiagnosis and treatment negligence. This is when diseases like COPD progress into more serious stages.
It is typically observed that nearly two-thirds of COPD cases are detected only in their advanced stages. This is perhaps the reason that around 3 million people in the United Kingdom have been living with the disease but only 90,000 getting screened and diagnosed with it. It gets worse in the USA. According to a report (published in August 2013) by The American Lung Association, around 24 million Americans in the year 2011 have been under diagnosis for COPD and have reported impaired lung function. In terms of mortality, COPD is the third leading cause of deaths in the USA responsible for the death of 133,965 Americans in 2009.
This study is being conducted by a group of researchers from the University and The University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust of Southampton, the Wessex Academic the Wessex Academic Health Science Network and other local NHS partners, collaborating to form the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (NIHR CLAHRC), Wessex. The effort was launched on Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 at the Hilton Hotel, Southampton. The initiative is being funded by the NIHR and the local health economy.
This study will be beneficial in providing differential diagnoses for all kinds of respiratory and pulmonary conditions, as well as focus on aging and dementia. Steps would be taken to ensure proper fundamental care being taken of every patient, abiding by his nutritional, physical and medical needs. It will help in bridging the gaps in primary patient care and ensure that they recover properly. Also, prescribing medicines (especially antibiotics) would be scrutinized closely keeping in mind the problems associated with multidrug resistance. The ultimate aim of this would be to reduce the number of hospital admissions on the whole.
Dr. Tom Wilkinson who is also the leader for the integrated Respiratory Care Programme for the NIHR CLAHRC Wessex is leading the study. He was quoted recently as saying “Our project demonstrates the sort of research that the CLAHRC is dedicated to: finding new ways of benefiting patients within our local communities across Wessex. We hope that this study will present a solution to a serious condition found in many communities in the UK. If the study goes well we hope that the evidence generated will lead to initiatives on a national scale before becoming normal practice.”
According to Professor Jessica Corner, Dean of Health Sciences at the University of Southampton and Director of the NIHR CLAHRC Wessex, “The CLAHRC will aim to develop and improve the care that people across our region receive. Institutions across Wessex already have a good track record of working together to improve the health of the local population. This is an exciting and important opportunity that will enable us to continue that good work to drive our health services forward.”