Battling COPD? Temple's HiFLO trials evaluates new therapies to ease breathing

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022
Battling COPD? Temple's HiFLO trials promise to ease breathing
Temple Health is looking to treat COPD using heated, most air pumped through a nasal cannula.

NEW HOPE, Pa. (WPVI) -- Doctors are continually searching for better treatments for COPD - chronic pulmonary obstructive disease.

One being tested at Temple Health uses a twist on the long-time staple: oxygen.

Like many Baby Boomers, Art Ross of New Hope, Pa., grew up surrounded by secondhand smoke.

"Both of my parents being heavy smokers, and when we would get in a car and go for a car ride in the winter, the windows would be closed," Art remembers.

Art says that exposure led to a craving for nicotine that drove him to smoke by age 12, and that smoking led to emphysema - a component of COPD - by age 26.

He stopped smoking in his 30s, but the damage was done.

Dr. Gerard Criner, director of the Temple Lung Center, says COPD patients have daily symptoms as well as flare-ups, or exacerbations.

"Related to changes in environmental factors such as air quality, higher pollution, hot humid weather, or when they get a bacterial or viral infection," says Dr. Criner.

Art says flare-ups can be painful.

"It's hard to breathe. Your chest is very tight, your chest is full of fluid," he says.

"Cells die with each flare-up," Art notes.

The damage from COPD is physical - and mental.

"It's easy to lose your temper when you're having a hard time breathing," he says from experience.

Dr. Criner is now leading the nationwide HiFLO trial, which goes beyond conventional oxygen.

It uses a machine that pumps out high-volume, heated, moist air through a nasal cannula.

"It's almost like if you're driving your car, and open up your window and stick your head out and take a breath," Dr. Criner says.

To get into the trial, patients must be over age 40 and have been hospitalized for a flare-up in the past six weeks.

They need not be a Temple patient.

But they must use the machine at least six hours a day.

Art says the warm humid air is comforting and relaxing, like a sauna.

And he thinks his breathing is better.

"I was on oxygen 24/7, before I started this, and I'm not now," he says.

Dr. Criner says while there are good COPD treatments, "None of them are perfect and none of them eradicate totally patients having flare-ups."

So continual development of new ones is a must.

Dr. Criner says COPD is a growing problem, and climate change may be part of it.

For more information on the trial, call 1-800-Temple-MED or go to HiFLO trial.