Copd Treatment Research

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) receives relatively little clinical attention. Other respiratory diseases, such as asthma, are studied extensively, while COPD research is limited.

Fortunately, researchers are turning their attention to COPD research and are searching for new COPD treatments. As a more complete understanding of COPD emerges, new treatment options and disease management strategies are becoming available.

COPD Statistics

COPD research has amassed a wealth of statistical information about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD statistics demonstrate clearly that COPD research needs to be increased: In 2003, COPD was the fourth leading cause of death in the United States of America.

In 2003, 122,283 Americans died due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. According to COPD statistics, there were 11.4 million diagnosed cases of COPD in America in 2004.

COPD and Smoking

Unsurprisingly, COPD statistics indicate that smoking is the single greatest risk factor for COPD. Approximately 80 percent to 90 percent of COPD deaths are directly attributable to smoking. However, COPD research has not been able to determine why some smokers don’t develop COPD.

COPD Research

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is actually a product of two diseases:

  • chronic bronchitis
  • emphysema.

New COPD treatments must address both diseases for effective reduction of COPD.

Emphysema causes enlargement of the alveoli, air sacs within the lungs. In people with the disease, the walls between the alveoli degenerate, causing less effective gas exchange between the lungs and the blood.

Chronic bronchitis causes airway inflammation, which results in narrow and constricted airways.

COPD research suggests that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is an inflammatory disease similar to bronchial asthma. More research is needed, however, as there seem to be several COPD inflammation patterns.

COPD research is also investigating the genetics of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. There is a special interest in why some smokers never develop COPD, as their apparent immunity may help determine the root cause of the disease.

Management and treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is more effective if the disease is diagnosed in its early stages. There are concerns that COPD is under-diagnosed: While 11.4 million Americans have a diagnosis of COPD, 24 million display symptoms of impaired lung function.

Many of these 24 million may already suffer from early-stage COPD. COPD research hopes to develop new diagnostic tools to catch the disease at an earlier stage.

New COPD Treatments

Lung volume reduction surgery, or LVRS, treats emphysema by removing parts of the lungs damaged by hyperventilation. What remains of the lung will function better when hyperventilated lung tissue is removed.

While LVRS can be used as a COPD treatment, the procedure is highly invasive and can cause death when severe emphysema is a factor. New COPD treatments are under development and hope to provide less invasive lung volume reduction surgery techniques.

Another possible new COPD treatment is the addition of valves to expand constricted airways. The valves would be inserted into the airway through a bronchoscope, a thin, flexible tube threaded down the throat and into the bronchial tubes. At present, airway-expanding devices are under investigation, and their effectiveness has not been established.

Resources

American Lung Association (n.d.). Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Fact Sheet. Retrieved July 31, 2007, from the Lung USA Web site: http://www.lungusa.org/site/pp.asp?c=dvLUK9O0E