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A recent study has presented an algorithm which is capable of recording improved imaging results for healthcare professionals to examine the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients by providing information at a microscopic level.
The research, which was carried out at San Diego State University in the States enables doctors and nurses treating cystic fibrosis patients to examine lung tissue in patients suffering from the condition in order to better tailor treatment and make diagnoses.
Both chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis cause chronic lung inflammation which in turn tends to cause limited airflow to and from the patient’s lung and can even cause scarring of the lung tissue.
The inflamed response of the lungs to the symptoms of the condition leads to the over-production of white blood cells called neutrophils and mucus which further impairs the flow of air to and from the lungs. The research team that headed up this study theorised that the significant accumulation of mucus is the main reason for lung damage within cystic fibrosis patients and as such following the progression of this symptom is essential for better diagnosis and treatment of the condition.
Currently, there are plenty of physical clinical tests that measure airflow restriction within CF and COPD patients. Spirometry, for example, measures the volume of air which can be powerfully blown out after breathing in, but this sort of test doesn’t provide the sort of detailed information about the site of mucus obstruction in the lungs that the newly-developed algorithm does.
MRI scanners is another way of measuring the progress of a cystic fibrosis patient, and there are many MRI methods for analysing lungs of patients but despite their clarity and precision they can’t always give the same detailed analysis of the infected sites, especially within smaller airways.
This new approach to following the progression of mucus in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. Doctors and other healthcare professionals are now able to visualise the effect of the mucus on lung function and follow the patient’s response to various types of CF therapies.