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U of Cincinnati researchers develop whistle-sized breathing device for people with COPD

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: March 15th, 2023

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have developed a breathing device to aid people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The PEP Buddy device improves symptoms of breathlessness caused by the disease, which tightens the body’s air tubes, making it very difficult for patients to breathe during physical activities.

“Their life really changes when they have COPD,” says UC associate professor Muhammad Ahsan Zafar, who co-developed the device with professor Ralph Panos. “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.”

The hands-free PEP Buddy device is the size of a whistle and can be worn around the neck for day-to-day use. Patients simply breathe into it when needed, which is typically during or after physical exertion.

“I use it when I get up in the morning,” says Maja Flannery, a PEP Buddy user with chronic lung disease and airflow obstruction. Flannery gained access to the device through a study Zafar and Panos conducted. “It helps with the air requirement when changing position from laying down to standing and exercises my lungs to get them more prepared for the day,” Flannery adds. “I find it helpful in getting the trapped air out as I am active, so I can play longer points during tennis, and also recover between points more quickly. My friends at tennis laugh that it is my ‘magic whistle.’”

Zafar says the next step is to conduct a long-term study to see the impact on the use of rescue inhalers, emergency department visits, and long-term symptoms and functional capability in people with COPD.

“As a physician I feel gratified that we are providing something new that can actually improve people’s lives,” says Zafar. “That’s where my passion is. These people are really debilitated with not many tools in their hand to improve their symptoms right now. PEP Buddy will be one such tool.”

Source: UC News

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