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New lung machine up and running

Top class: the pulmonary plethysmograph at the Bermuda Medical Specialties Group’s multi-speciality practice in Hamilton (Photograph supplied)

A new machine to test for lung problems is up and running at a specialist clinic.

The pulmonary plethysmograph, used to check the efficiency of the lungs, has been installed at the new Bermuda Medical Specialities Group and will cut the need for patients to travel overseas for tests.

The equipment was developed by US company Morgan whose president, Patrick Morgan, is in Bermuda; to train staff at the multi-speciality practice in Hamilton’s Reid Street.

Mr Morgan, whose father was a co-developer of several respiratory tests, said: “Up until now, Bermudians have had to travel off island to get these tests done.

“They would have to go to Johns Hopkins Hospital, to the Harvard hospitals, to Vanderbilt Hospital or other fancy places, but now Bermuda has the exact equipment and medical support that they would have going off island.

“After the tests, the results will be read by specialists in the North East of the US, in the more complicated cases. A lot can be done here too.”

Arlene Basden, former director of hospitalist services at the Bermuda Hospitals Board, opened the medical facility with her fiancé, Marico Thomas, this year.

Dr Basden said it was probable that Bermuda has a high rate of undiagnosed and misdiagnosed cases of pulmonary disease because specialist equipment was not available easily.

She added: “Respiratory disease in Bermuda is often labelled as asthma and it is due to the inability for more sophisticated tests in Bermuda. We will not be surprised with the number of patients we diagnose with asthma who have something else.

Dr Basden said: “From my experience working at the hospital, the number of patients who come in with an exacerbation of their airways is climbing.

“A few weeks ago the asthma charity Open Airways gave us a workshop on asthma in Bermuda.

“They are doing a phenomenal job in education.”

The machine can be used to detect obstructive complaints, where narrowed airways make breathing difficult, restrictive diseases, often brought on by exposure to irritants and asthma, which inflames and narrows airways. It can also detect lung cancer.

Mr Morgan said the Bermudian plethysmograph is the same type used at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, which is “the number one cancer centre in the US”.

He added: “Harvard also has a tremendous reputation. It has the number one hospital in the US and we developed clinical software for respiratory function testing. Parallel with that, we started working with Boston Children’s Hospital and that expanded. Today, we are pretty much the pulmonary function testing choice for all of the well-known children’s hospitals.

“The combination of this excellent hardware and the software developed in Boston has led us to be the vendor of choice in all the top teaching hospitals.”

Mr Morgan said that, used properly, the testing machine would be accurate.

He said: “It relies on coaching and training by a technologist. Respiratory measurements are effort dependent. With pulmonary, we are asking somebody to do severe breathing efforts, for one test you have to take a deep breath in and blast it out as hard and fast as you can and keep going for as long as you can.

“If the technologists says ‘just blow out’, the system may accurately measure a poor effort.”

Mr Morgan said: “The machine itself is top of the class in terms of accuracy and reliability. We are not going to get any misdiagnoses. Within the software is a tremendous amount of quality control so it is looking at the effort, in respiratory we have to have effort; and repeatability, otherwise it isn’t worth diagnosing anything. The programme and instrument guide the technologists through getting good results.”