Those with a history of asthma know the feeling – that sudden inability to catch a breath. But often they are equipped with medications and inhalers.
Others may be new to breathing problems and seek immediate advice from their doctors.
In these and other scenarios, St. Rose Ambulatory & Surgery Center can help physicians determine if current treatment is effective or diagnosis a new condition.
Since October is Healthy Lung Month, the St. Rose cardio-pulmonary staff wanted to use the occasion to share information about lung care and treatment.
Brandi Gruber, director of cardio-pulmonary services, noted St. Rose is the only place in Great Bend that offers pulmonary function testing (PFT). About 20 to 25 such tests are performed each week at St. Rose.
"This testing is so important because it can assess how the lungs are working," Gruber said. "Once the physician has our results, a diagnosis and appropriate treatment can follow. And there is no relief like the relief of being able to breathe again."
Most patients seeking PFT have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In other cases, Gruber noted, the testing is conducted as part of a pre-employment process.
"We do this for local businesses on a regular basis," Gruber explained. "If someone applies for an industrial job that entails exposure to chemicals, the employer wants to know if the applicant is right for the job."
In addition, a physician may order PFT for those who are scheduled for surgery. This is especially true, Gruber noted, if the patient has pulmonary disease, is pathologically obese, has a history of smoking, coughing or wheezing, or is undergoing an abdominal or thoracic operation.
The 45-minute PFT assesses the functional status of the lungs. This includes how much air volume can be moved in and out of the lungs; how fast the air can be moved in and out; and how stiff the lungs and chest wall are.
Lori Vainer, St. Rose registered respiratory therapist, notes there are several variables that have an impact on lung function.
One of those variables is age. As a person grows older, the natural elasticity of the lungs decreases. Another factor is gender because male lung volumes and capacities are larger than those for females.
"Body height and size also have a tremendous effect," Vainer said. "For example, if they are too obese, the abdominal mass prevents the diaphragm from descending as far as it could."
Race also affects PFT values. Hispanics, African-Americans and Native Americans have different PFT results compared to Caucasians.
"All of these factors are considered," Vainer added. "We encourage anyone with breathing problems to see a doctor and, when necessary, ask for a referral to St. Rose for a PFT. It can lead to a diagnosis or demonstrate if current treatments are working properly."