PEP Buddy, a novel breathing device developed by pulmonologists at the University of Cincinnati (UC), Ohio, USA, could improve lives of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). One in 10 adults suffers from this condition, which can have debilitating effects.
People with COPD need more time to get inhaled air out of their lungs due to tighter air tubes. This leads to retention of air in the lungs when they breathe fast, such as during physical activities. This dynamic hyperinflation causes breathlessness and lower O2 levels. Due to difficulty in breathing, patients become less and less active, and more isolated.
Many positive-expiratory pressure breathing devices that are currently available are big and bulky, which is why Muhammad Ahsan Zafar, UC College of Medicine, and colleagues developed a hands-free device, the size of a whistle, which can be worn around the neck with a lanyard for day-to-day use. It can be inserted into the mouth when needed, either during or after exertion.
The device was tested by examining people with COPD who were short of breath, and giving them two tasks: a 6-minute walk test with a device and one without. The patients were then asked to take the device home and try it out in their daily routines. The team then followed-up how the PEP Buddy had impacted their quality-of-life scores and shortness of breath after 2 weeks. Results showed that 72% of participants experienced a significant reduction in shortness of breath and improvement in quality of life. Furthermore, 36% of patients whose O2 levels would drop during walking did not experience this when using the PEP buddy.
Author Zafar stated: “Their life really changes when they have COPD. They were active individuals but now they’re debilitated and limited, so we wanted to come up with something easy that helps improve their life.” This new device could improve symptoms of breathlessness, as well as quality of life, and may benefit people dealing with stress and anxiety.
The team said the next step in this research will be to conduct a long-term study analysing the impact of PEP Buddy usage on the use of rescue inhalers, long-term symptoms, emergency department visits, and functional capacity. The device may also be used in pulmonary rehabilitation programs in order to improve faster and sustain better outcomes.