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Breathing Easy: New Measures for Pulmonary Medicine

May 17, 2015
According to the American Lung Association, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States, with about 12.7 million adults over the age of 18 suffering from the disease in 2011. Additionally, an estimated 10.1 million Americans were reported to have chronic bronchitis, which exacerbates COPD. Risk factors for COPD include smoking, heredity, occupational exposure to dust or chemicals and air pollution.

Pulmonary diseases are usually distinguishable when someone has respiratory or breathing issues with symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty sleeping. For example, pulmonary hypertension is a condition in which there is an increased pressure in blood vessels in the lungs which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the lungs, resulting in breathlessness.

About 75 percent of admitted patients have some sort of disordered sleep, and GBMC hopes to expand its sleep services for inpatients. Appropriately diagnosing and treating sleep directly impacts pulmonary health as well as reduces the risk of future cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.

Pulmonary Medicine, a newly formed specialty group at GBMC, focuses on diagnosing and treating conditions that include, but are not limited to, pulmonary hypertension, COPD, asthma, bronchitis and evaluation of those with abnormal X-rays and/or lung cancer. Additionally, members of this specialty bring their expertise to various hospital committees to improve patient care and reduce costs for inpatients admitted with respiratory problems.

Three new physicians recently joined the pulmonary team including Gregory Bassmann, MD, specializing in general pulmonary and interventional bronchoscopy, Bruce Sabath, MD, specializing in pulmonary hypertension, and Rex Yung, MD, an expert in lung cancer and bronchoscopy from Johns Hopkins Hospital. Bronchoscopy involves looking inside the lung pathways with a probe to see if there are any tumors, tears, blockage or issues that may be causing breathing problems. The outpatient procedure can also be used to remove tissue samples or to clear the airway.

“Heart and lung conditions often go hand-in-hand with other illnesses, so interfacing with cardiology, neurology, geriatrics, oncology and other community pulmonary physicians is key,” says Marie Chatham, MD, Chief, Division of Pulmonary Medicine and Vice Chair of Internal Medicine, who is also board-certified in Sleep Medicine.
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