Popular Science: A $25 whistle-like tool could be a game changer for COPD patients

The PEP Buddy is cheap, uses no electronics, and could help regulate breathing for COPD sufferers

One in 10 adults suffer from the debilitating effects of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Research around a new breathing device developed by pulmonologists at the University of Cincinnati offers promise for improving their lives.

The new device not only improves symptoms of breathlessness and quality of life for people with COPD, it also offers benefits for people dealing with stress and anxiety and those practicing mindfulness, meditation or yoga.The research was published in the journal Respiratory Care and covered in an article published by Popular Science. 

The outlet reported that a team at the University of Cincinnati has created a new positive-expiratory pressure (PEP) device roughly the size and shape of whistle that attaches to a lanyard for users to keep on them during their everyday activities. Unlike existing PEP products that are often handheld, bulky, and expensive, Muhammad Ahsan Zafar and  Ralph Panos’ PEP Buddy aid only costs around $25, and includes no electronics. Zafar, MD, and Panos, MD, are both in the Department of Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the UC College of Medicine.

Muhammad Ahsan Zafar, MD,  and Ralph Panos, MD, both of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine

Muhammad Ahsan Zafar, MD, and Ralph Panos, MD, both of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine in the UC College of Medicine/Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

The article goes on to say because of their respiratory system degradation and weaker air tubes, it often takes COPD sufferers longer to exhale while breathing. When their breath quickens, such as during physical activities or while stressed, more and more air stays within the lungs, causing “dynamic hyperinflation” that leads to breathlessness and lower oxygen levels. This compounds over time, and often restricts or discourages further physical movement and exertion, which then can worsen existing COPD symptoms.

To combat these problems, users put the device in their mouth just as they would a whistle when needed, then breathe through their nose and exhale through the product. PEP Buddy’s design simply relies on creating a slight back pressure while users breathe out, thus slowing down their exhalations to better regulate air flow. In their studies, Zafar and Panos found that around 72% of patients utilizing PEP Buddy over a two-week period reported a “significant impact” in reducing shortness of breath while also improving their everyday living. What’s more, over a third of those participating in the study showed no signs of dropping oxygen levels while PEP Buddy was in use.

Read the entire story here

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The University of Cincinnati is classified as a Research 1 institution by the Carnegie Commission and is ranked in the National Science Foundation's Top-35 public research universities. UC's graduate students and faculty investigate problems and innovate solutions with real-world impact. Next Lives Here.

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