By William K. Alcorn
Asthma in children and adolescents is a huge problem in the Mahoning Valley.
More than 90 percent of patients referred to pulmonologists at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley, regardless of the reason they are referred, are diagnosed with asthma, said Dr. Rajeev Bhatia of Akron Children’s Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine.
Pulmonology is the medical specialty dealing with disease involving the respiratory tract.
To help diagnose asthma and other lung disorders, Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley is now offering child-friendly comprehensive testing for lung disorders with the opening of its new pediatric-only pulmonary function lab.
Located in the Boardman Medical Pavilion, 8423 Market St., the lab offers pulmonary function testing to assist with the diagnosis and management of lung disease, such as asthma and cystic fibrosis, in children and teens.
The difference in pulmonary function tests between adult and pediatric patients is the commitment to age-specific care in a noninstitutional environment, said Kelly Colwell, the respiratory therapist who operates the pulmonary function lab.
“We do our best to provide a reassuring, calm environment to ease the stress that is related to ‘going to the doctor,’” Colwell said.
“One of our greatest attributes is that we are the only free-standing pulmonary function and stress testing lab in the Mahoning Valley solely dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric patients,” Colwell said.
Services provided through the lab enables patients suffering from lung disorders to undergo all necessary testing in one central location. For patients in Youngstown, Warren and surrounding communities, that central location is now in their backyard,” said Dr. John McBride, director of Akron Children’s Dr. Robert T. Stone Respiratory Center at Akron Children’s.
All tests performed at the lab comply with the standards established by the American Thoracic Society, said Dr. McBride.
Pediatric patients suffering from shortness of breath, wheezing, chronic cough, exercise-induced asthma or uncontrolled asthma are referred to the lab for pulmonary function testing, officials said.
“We typically see 12 to 15 patients a day, and all patients sent to us with breathing issues over 5 will have a pulmonary evaluation in our lab,” said Colwell.
The initial cost for the new diagnostic equipment was $47,841 plus $800 in specialty software, hospital officials said.
The pediatric pulmonary testing lab looks like a telephone booth and is an airtight chamber that contains measuring equipment. The patient sits in the chamber and completes different breathing techniques into the equipment.
This is a very sensitive tool to test how well the patient’s lungs work. Certain medical conditions can keep the patient’s lungs from working to their full capacity, and that’s where this equipment is very useful, Dr. Bhatia said.
Among the testing devices are a pneumotachometer, which measures the speed of patient’s breath; and a mouth pressure transducer, which measures the volume of air in a patient’s lungs.
“Prior to acquiring this equipment, we had the ability to measure the airflow in and out of the lungs but we did not have the equipment to measure all the lung volumes, especially the volume of the air left in the patient’s lungs after full expiration,” Dr. Bhatia said.
The tests can also help determine whether the patient has a restrictive problem, caused by the airways in the lungs not opening enough, or an obstructive problem, such as asthma, blocking the airway, Dr. Bhatia said.