Timely Respiratory Care Improves Outcomes, Heads Off Invasive Options

Premier Pulse     December 2017

Respiratory-Care_Stack_640x360As technology continues to improve in the field of respiratory medicine, so have the opportunities to minimize the impact of cardiopulmonary disorders in patients’ lives. New and improved tools have allowed pulmonologists at Premier Health’s respiratory care facilities to play a vital role in delivering timely and accurate care that is often less invasive and delivers better outcomes.

“We are fully capable to offer pulmonary function testing with pretty fast turnaround time,” said Jennifer Clune, MD, medical director for respiratory care at Miami Valley Hospital and Upper Valley Medical Center. “When patients get referred to us for a study, their primary care physician could have a result in their hand possibly on the same day, which was not always historically the case.”

That timeliness can be absolutely crucial when it comes to the detection and treatment of lung cancer, and Dr. Clune also stresses its usefulness in determining why a patient might be short of breath when standard chest X-rays or pulmonary function tests don't provide a complete answer.

Primary care physicians also play an important role in the referral process when abnormalities are first detected. The decision to utilize Premier Health’s respiratory services can provide patients and their families with clear answers and allow specialists to quickly prepare and coordinate a course of treatment.

“We play a big role in the early portion of lung cancer diagnosis and should really see a patient before they are referred to an oncologist or thoracic surgeon,” said Dr. Clune. “We can review the CT scan and decide if a biopsy is necessary or whether the nodule can simply be watched and followed.”

Premier Health’s respiratory specialists also help determine a patient’s course of treatment beyond an initial diagnosis. Not only are they able to assist in the early detection of cancer, but electromagnetic navigation now gives them the ability to provide crucial guidance for a patient’s course of treatment.

“In the past, patients would just get CT scans every few months to see where things were at, but now we've got the opportunity to perform biopsy and resect lesions when they are much smaller,” said Thomas Yunger , MD, medical director for respiratory care at Good Samaritan Hospital (closed in 2018). “We're able to help on the therapeutic side now as well. With the same navigation bronchoscopy, we can place digital markers around the tumor for the radiation oncologist to allow them to precisely localize the radiation field. So they're hitting tumor and less healthy tissue.”

Technology has also evolved to offer improved treatment options for lung cancer patients who would have previously required a referral to different treatment facilities. For example, patients with larger endobronchial lesions can now receive stenting or cryotherapy treatments directly at Premier Health facilities. Pleurx catheters may also be installed on an outpatient basis to allow the patient to drain excess pleural fluid at home so they don't have to keep returning to the hospital for a needle aspiration.

In addition to cancer detection and treatment, the respiratory care offices at Miami Valley Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, Upper Valley Medical Center, and Atrium Medical Center offer a number of innovative resources for the treatment of additional disorders such as asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, cardiac disorders, and pneumonia. In each case, the decision to refer patients to a pulmonologist as soon as possible can have a significant impact on future outcomes.

Back to the December 2017 issue of Premier Pulse

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