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Helping people breathe easier


Breathing comes so naturally to most of us, but for hundreds of thousands of Canadians, every breath is an effort. Fortunately, great advances are being made in the understanding and treatment of lung disease, thanks in part to clinical research conducted at the Ottawa Health Research Institute.

For example, Dr. Shawn Aaron and his colleagues recently published results of a study that could make a big difference in the lives of people with chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The study found that treating patients with a combination of two inhalers, rather than a single inhaler, improved their breathing ability and quality of life and reduced hospitalizations.

“Although some doctors had been prescribing combinations of inhalers for several years, until this study, nobody really knew if the practice was helpful or even safe,” said Dr. Aaron. “The benefit we observed could allow some patients to walk around the block for the first time in years,” he added.

Asthma is another active area of research that has become more advanced with the opening of the “Breathing Space” - a 900 square foot house at the General Campus. This special house will facilitate research on environmental triggers of asthma and techniques to help avoid them. Other asthma research has focused on diagnosis, with one study recently revealing that obese women are often misdiagnosed with asthma.

Clinicians are also investigating cystic fibrosis, a common genetic disease that leads to frequent lung infections. Some studies have identified risk factors to help improve monitoring of patients, while other have focused on finding better approaches for the treatment of antibiotic-resistant lung infections.

“I think we have a really unique group of researchers and the studies we’re doing are helping to improve care,” said Dr. Aaron.

The respirology research group is affiliated with the Ottawa Health Research Institute, the University of Ottawa, and The Ottawa Hospital.

More information:

• Press release: Two inhalers are better than one for common lung disease
• In the news: Tale of the costly test: An Ottawa doctor's startling discovery has led him to question whether expensive diagnostic tests lead to better patient care
• In the news: Weight seen as factor in breathing problems - Study rejects asthma diagnosis in some obese women
• Website: The Ottawa Hospital Division of Respirology


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