The Lung Flute looks about as low-tech as you can get, but a new study of the Buffalo-built medical device indicates it significantly improves the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in patients with chronic bronchitis, and does so safely.
The research published in the Clinical and Translational Medicine journal confirms and extends the results of a smaller 2010 study conducted to obtain Food and Drug Administration approval.
“The study shows the device provides meaningful clinical benefit. And, that’s huge for us given the number of COPD patients out there,” said Frank Codella, chief executive officer at Medical Acoustics of Orchard Park.
COPD is a disease that makes it hard to breathe, and it is progressive, meaning it gets worse over time. It can cause coughing that produces large amounts of slimy mucus that creates a breeding ground for bacteria. In 2011, chronic lower respiratory disease, primarily COPD, was the third-leading cause of death in the United States, and 15 million Americans reported that they had been diagnosed with COPD, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
The Lung Flute, which patients blow into like a musical instrument, uses sound waves to break up mucus in the lungs. It costs $45.
The device, which requires a prescription, is approved by the FDA to treat COPD and other lung diseases characterized by secretions and congestion. It also is approved to obtain lung sputum samples for laboratory analysis.
The study followed 69 patients with COPD for six months. It was conducted by researchers at the University at Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The study was funded by Medical Acoustics and by the UB Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology, which is funded by NYSTAR, Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation.
“This study confirms that the Lung Flute improves symptoms and health status in COPD patients, decreasing the impact of the disease on patients and improving their quality of life,” said Dr. Sanjay Sethi, principal author and professor and chief of the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at UB.
Sethi said that, unlike similar devices from competitors, the Lung Flute is the only one that has undergone extensive testing for COPD patients.