Health Alert: asthma laser - - Columbia, South Carolina

Dawn Mercer's

Health Alert: asthma laser

(Columbia) Jan.7, 2003 - To diagnose asthma a patient must blow a very long, hard breath into a machine that measures how air flows from his lungs, easier said than done for some patients.

Nancy Inhofe, Md, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Tulsa says, "In children it's a very difficult test to perform. Because it is so effort intensive in the younger age groups, we do not get reliable results."

Patrick McCann, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Oklahoma, hopes to change that, "We're taking cutting edge laser technology, combining it with cutting edge computer technology and developing a medical application."

He team has come up with a device that simultaneously measures the levels of carbon dioxide and nitric oxide in one easy exhalation, no forceful blowing required, "People that have asthma generate nitric oxide at higher levels than people that don't have asthma."

A computer measures the intensity of the transmitted laser light and searches for the unique "fingerprints" associated with carbon dioxide and nitric oxide. A nitric oxide reading under 30 is considered normal. The asthmatic volunteer had an average nitric oxide reading of 84, way above normal.

McCann, who does not have asthma, came in at 21. Inhofe says the device needs some fine-tuning, since a high nitric oxide level could also mean a sinus infection, but she likes the overall idea, "This test is so easy to perform. It would be something we could do frequently and get a very good grasp of what is going on in the patient's lungs."

McCann is currently working with the American Lung Association to test at-risk children. The device still needs FDA approval.

by Dawn Mercer

posted 2:57pm by Chris Rees

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