LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - It’s a condition that literally takes someone’s breath away. An estimated 12.5 million Americans have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Less air flows in and out of the airways. The tiny air sacs in the lungs are damaged and cannot stretch and shrink. But a team of physicians and scientists have developed a non-invasive device to help patients breathe.

“The main cause of breathlessness in COPD is something called air trapping, or dynamic hyperinflation. What that is, is an inability to exhale all of the air that one takes in,” said Dr. Ralph Panos. “They learned something called pursed lip breathing, which is breathing out through pursed lips to create that back pressure.”

Panos and his colleagues developed a hands-free device that helps patients simulate pursed lip breathing. The device is called the positive expiratory pressure, or PEP Buddy.

“It’s just simply placed in the mouth, one breathes in through the nose, and then out through the device,” Panos said. “That resistance to airflow creates the back pressure, which relieves the air trapping and dynamic hyperinflation.”

The researchers said there are many benefits of slow breathing and exhalation.

Panos and his colleagues developed the PEP Buddy with help from a University of Cincinnati department that provides support for entrepreneurs.

The researchers are in the process of obtaining a Class One Approval from the FDA, which is for medical devices that are considered low-risk for consumer use.

More: Your Health

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