Patients can breathe easier with new lung function tests at Mercy Berryville

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Butch Crotch has spent his life working industrial jobs but when it became difficult to breathe, he didn't have to drive 90 miles from his home to find out what's wrong, thanks to new diagnostic equipment at Mercy Hospital in Berryville.

"We live in a pocket and you know how far people have to drive to get special care. We are able to provide that right here at home," said Lisa Sparrow, the hospital's manager of respiratory therapy. "Butch was the very first person to use our new plethysmography box. It fills with special gases that you breathe in. That allows us to get lung measurements and tell whether the patient is having obstructive issues with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and where it's located."

Sparrow said she suggested the hospital look into buying the machine because its respiratory therapists were seeing up to five patients a week for basic lung testing and "it was just not giving us enough info to satisfy the pulmonologist that these patients were being followed up with."

Because breathing problems weaken the body, patients are often too tired to drive to the store, much less to another city to get testing or treatment.

"With emphysema and COPD, breathing is like trying to breathe through a straw. To ask someone to go for further testing seemed unfair to the patient because then they have to get in a car and travel 120 miles round trip," Sparrow said.

Tests conducted using the plethysmography box can pinpoint lung problems, measure how serious they are and check to see how well treatment for a lung disease is working. They also can determine how much air a person's lungs can hold, how quickly a person can move air in and out of their lungs and how well their lungs put oxygen into and remove carbon dioxide from their blood.

"We are able to do a diffusion capacity test to measure reserve volume and we can measure slow vital capacity and total lung capacity," Sparrow said.

"No single test can determine all of the lung function values, so more than one type of test may be need to be done," Sparrow added. "Some of the tests may be repeated after you inhale medicine that enlarges your airways, which is what Butch did."

Crouch said he was was happy he didn't have to drive to Springfield.

"They were so helpful and the trip was so convenient," he said. "Before, it would've taken 70 miles to drive to Springfield, one way. This way, I was still able to see this great team, but with less of the hassle."

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