Do You Have COPD? A Simple
Test Can Tell, Say Respiratory Therapists
For Immediate Release
IRVING, TX (September 15, 2006)
– Most people have never heard of a disease called “COPD.” But it's
still the fourth largest killer in the U.S. , report respiratory therapists
from the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC).
Why the mystery? The name may not
be familiar, but the two conditions it encompasses are well known to
most, says Allen Wentworth, MEd, RRT, director of respiratory therapy
and pulmonary diagnostics at the University of Colorado Hospital in
Denver , CO .
“COPD stands for chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease. It essentially covers patients who suffer
from emphysema and chronic bronchitis.” While most people get the disease
from smoking, other environmental pollutants can lead to COPD too, and
a genetic form of the condition, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency , affects
a small number of people as well.
Certainly, the best way to avoid
COPD is to never start smoking. But what if you're a smoker or former
smoker? Wentworth says a simple test called spirometry can help uncover
the condition in its earliest and most treatable stages.
“Spirometry is a test where a patient
blows into a machine in specific ways that assist us in measuring certain
lung volumes and flow rates,” explains the registered respiratory therapist.
“The patient will seal their lips around a mouthpiece and breathe a
few normal breaths. When they are instructed to, they will take the
deepest breath they can and then blast it out as fast and long as possible.
Once they have exhaled everything they can, they will then take a big
deep breath back in and the test is done.”
When spirometry is performed by
a qualified respiratory therapist, pulmonary function technologist,
or other health professional it is far more accurate than a chest x-ray
in identifying COPD. “Generally speaking, by the time you see changes
in chest x-rays the disease is already pretty advanced and the patient
is usually symptomatic,” says Wentworth.
If spirometry has so much to offer
in the early diagnosis of COPD, why don't more people know about it?
Wentworth says the test has been underutilized because it's traditionally
been available only in hospital pulmonary function laboratories.
All that is changing, though, thanks
to a national campaign sponsored by the National Lung Health Education
Program (NLHEP) and supported by groups like the AARC. NLHEP is urging
more primary care physicians to offer the test during regular check-ups
and is promoting spirometry to the general public with a campaign called
“Test your Lungs - Know Your Numbers.”
Wentworth says the founder of NLHEP,
internationally known pulmonologist Thomas L. Petty, MD, once put it
to him this way, “Physicians don't prescribe blood pressure medications
without taking blood pressure, or heart medications without doing EKGs.
Why do they prescribe bronchodilators (medicines used to treat breathing
problems) without doing spirometry?”
He says that's a question respiratory
therapists would like to see laid to rest once and for all.
Respiratory Therapists (RTs) are specially trained
and licensed respiratory health care professionals assisting physicians
in diagnosis, treatment, and management of respiratory diseases. RTs
provide care in hospitals, outpatient centers, physicians' offices,
skilled nursing facilities, and patients' homes.
The American Association for
Respiratory Care (AARC) is a not-for-profit, professional organization,
consisting of 40,000 respiratory therapists, physicians, and other health
care professionals. AARC is dedicated to assisting persons with respiratory
diseases receive safe and effective respiratory care.
American Association For Respiratory Care
9425 N MacArthur Blvd, Suite 100 , Irving , TX 75063
Facts About COPD
Over 16 million Americans have
been diagnosed with COPD and another 16 million have COPD but don't
COPD is the fourth leading
cause of death in the US .
In a recent survey, 7 out of
10 smokers could not identify COPD as a top-five killer.
In 2002, about 125,000 people
died of COPD.
Cigarette smoking is the leading
cause of COPD.
COPD symptoms include cough;
extreme mucus production; shortness of breath, especially with exercise;
wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe); and chest
In a recent survey 66 percent
of Americans did not know that COPD kills more women than men.
By 2020, COPD will become the
third leading cause of death in the United States
the consumer web site of the American Association for Respiratory Care