Study seeks former smokers with COPD

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Carol Sorgen

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) describes a set of progressive lung diseases that include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, non-reversible asthma and some forms of bronchiectasis (a widening of the airways that can lead to infection).

Symptoms of the condition include increased shortness of breath, frequent coughing (with and without sputum), wheezing and tightness in the chest. In the early stages of the disease, symptoms may be negligible. As the disease develops, the symptoms become more pronounced.

COPD affects an estimated 24 million people in the U.S. However, more than half do not know that they have it. Many people assume that shortness of breath and coughing are a normal part of aging. COPD can be caused by smoking, environmental factors and genetics.

Can better air quality help?

Johns Hopkins University is currently conducting a study of air cleaners intended to improve indoor air quality and COPD health.

The principal objective of the trial is to determine whether former smokers who have COPD and use an air cleaner at home will see an improvement in respiratory symptoms, quality of life and lung function.

 Approximately 120 participants are being recruited for the study, and the participants will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group will receive a real air cleaner that has internal HEPA and carbon filters. The other will receive a sham air cleaner without those filters, but which will otherwise run normally, including similar noise, airflow and overall appearance. Participants will not know which type of air filter they receive.

The air cleaners will be placed in the bedroom and the room where the participant reports spending the most time. Participants will be instructed to run the air cleaners continually during the course of the six-month study, and the units will be modified to prevent them from being turned off by the participants.

Taking part in the study

The investigators will place air pollution monitors in participants’ homes to measure the air quality over five one-week periods (at three months and one week before placing the air cleaner, and at one week, three months and six months after doing so).

During each week of monitoring, participants will be asked to keep a diary of their breathing and of how they are feeling every day.

Participants will have five home visits and five clinic visits, as well as monthly telephone calls during this time to see how they are feeling. One week after each home visit, the monitoring equipment will be picked up. After the second monitoring period, active or sham air cleaners will be placed in the home.

Participants must be 40 years old or older and have a physician’s diagnosis of COPD. They must be former smokers, who smoked at least a pack a day for 10 years or two packs a day for five years. They must have quit smoking at least a year ago. They cannot have other chronic lung diseases, such as asthma. Participants must also plan not to move during the study period.

For more information, or to see if you qualify,  contact Teresa L. Concordia at (410) 550-2449 or tconcor1@jhmi.edu, or Lilian Arteaga at (410) 550-9527 or larteag1@jhmi.edu.