UMKC researches non-medical asthma treatment

Ericka Chatman

Researchers at UMKC are studying a non-medical procedure to help combat asthma by using pressure. Pressure to the lungs is applied at night with the help of a non-pharmaceutical sleep mask. The sleep mask provides Continued Positive Airway Pressure to the lungs, allowing chest expansion to help patients breath easier.

“The theory is, if fresh humidified air is delivered to the lungs under pressure at night, it will splint open the airways. That effect will carry over the next day keeping the airways open, and preventing them from narrowing,” Gary Salzman, M.D., UMKC School of Medicine researcher and pulmonologist at Truman Medical Center.

Salzman has conducted asthma research since 1990and is an expert in lung disease.

Researchers believe that if non-medical use of pressure were used, it would cut down the use of many traditional medications asthma sufferers are used to taking.

“If the fresh, clean, humidified air splints open the airways, and carries over to the next day, it would alleviate patients from having to use a lot of medications to breathe, and keep their airways open,” Salzman said.

Preliminary studies on a smaller number of patients have shown the non-medical asthma study to be effective.  A randomized control trial will be conducted throughout 18 American Lung Association-Asthma Research Centers across the United States to see if the treatment is effective on a vast scale.

“We’re going to do the study on a larger scale of patients to see if this [treatment] is something that will really have merit, and would be an alternative [to traditional medications],” Salzman said. “We won’t know whether it works or not until we complete the study, and analyze the results.”

The non-medical treatment is mainly for chronic asthma sufferers who experience difficulty breathing daily, or suffer up to two times weekly. During the randomized control trial, each patient will be given different levels of pressure, and different time lengths of study. Some patients might have a few months, while others might have a few weeks. Some might receive a deeper pressure, while others receive a lighter pressure.

“Asthma has been a big area of research for me. I have asthma myself, so it makes me more interested in helping people who suffer from asthma,” Salzman said.

Asthma affects millions of people in the United States each year.  According to the Prime Health Foundation, it’s estimated that more than 80,000 people, including 23,500 children in the Kansas City area have asthma.

Students who suffer from asthma and are interested in participating in a paid research study can call 816-404-5503 to enroll.  There is a variety of studies available for people who have mild asthma to chronic asthma.