Asthma and Dyspnea Treatment

The primary focus of the BIDMC Asthma and Dyspnea Center is to provide a comprehensive multidisciplinary service for the evaluation and treatment of patients with symptoms of dyspnea (a feeling of being breathless or short of breath). The Center is one of only two clinics in the United States devoted to better understanding the causes of dyspnea. Through research, advanced medical care and patient education, the goal is to relieve symptoms of shortness of breath. With state-of-the-art diagnostics, specially-trained clinical specialists provide comprehensive care for patients experiencing symptoms of dyspnea, including patients with asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis, or a variety of other medical conditions.

The Asthma and Dyspnea Center is directed by Richard Schwartzstein, MD, has collaborated with Robert Banzett, PhD, and colleagues. They have led an intensive research program for over 20 years to elucidate the physiological mechanisms underlying the sensations that patients feel as "shortness of breath." Utilizing the insights and experience gained in the laboratory, the Center brings together asthma and COPD medical specialists, thoracic surgeons, specially-trained nurses, and respiratory and physical therapists to provide comprehensive assessment and therapy for individuals with asthma and COPD as well as for those patients who experience breathing discomfort for unclear reasons.

The Asthma and Dyspnea Center uses state-of-the-art technology in performing diagnostic breathing and exercise testing to determine the physiological basis for symptoms of dyspnea. Physicians provide guidance for optimizing the use of medications, including inhalers, nebulized therapies, and novel interventional approaches to many respiratory disorders. The Center offers a comprehensive, individualized pulmonary rehabilitation program for patients with significant functional limitations due to shortness of breath. For patients who require home oxygen, arrangements for personalized oxygen delivery devices are made based on specific patient needs. Patient and family education about dyspnea and underlying medical conditions is a major component of the rehabilitation program.

Several specialized services are available in collaboration with our Interventional Pulmonology colleagues. For patients who require supplemental oxygen, individuals can be evaluated for placement of a transtracheal catheter that may provide greater comfort and patient mobility. Patients with severe emphysema have the opportunities to enroll in leading-edge research studies, such as the use of endobronchial lung volume reduction. This is a new technology that may allow patients to receive the benefits of lung volume reduction without undergoing surgery.