Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is one of the most common causes of death in the US. Often the result of smoking, it's characterized by a restriction of the airways. Four years ago, a device known as the Lung Flute received FDA approval as a treatment for COPD. Now, a study conducted by the University of Buffalo has concluded that the hand-held device is indeed effective at helping patients breath more freely.
Manufactured by Buffalo, New York-based Medical Acoustics, the Lung Flute requires users to simply blow into it. Doing so causes an integrated reed to vibrate, producing low-frequency sound waves which travel down into the patients' lungs. There, the waves break up the mucus, allowing it to subsequently be cleared when the user forcefully exhales.
In the U Buffalo study, 69 COPD patients were monitored for a period of 26 weeks. A control group of half of those people, which didn't use the Lung Flute, experienced no change in their symptoms. Test subjects using the device twice a day, however, reported significantly less difficulty breathing and less coughing.
The researchers also monitored the patients' Body-Mass Index, Airflow Obstruction, Dyspnea and Exercise Capacity (BODE) score throughout the six-month period. "The BODE index provides a more comprehensive assessment of COPD patients," said Dr. Sanjay Sethi, who led the study. "As the disease worsens, the BODE index goes up as it did in the control group. But for patients using the Lung Flute, the BODE index stayed flat."
The study also indicated that use of the device likely decreases the likelihood of COPD flare-ups, and that it's more effective at treating COPD than similar devices designed to treat cystic fibrosis. Additionally, Sethi's colleagues are now assessing the Lung Flute's effectiveness as an asthma treatment.
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Clinical and Translational Medicine.