First non-drug treatment for asthma tested

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --  The first treatment for asthma that's not a drug is being tested in Kansas City.  It's a treatment already used for another common problem.

Denny Niebaum has sleep apnea -- lapses in breathing at night when his airway collapses as he breathes in.  Denny may start using a c-pap machine. C-pap stands for continuous positive airway pressure.

"I think they can keep you going.  Anything to keep you going," said Denny.

Now researchers want to know if c-pap can also treat asthma. The UMKC School of Medicine and Truman Medical Center have one of 18 centers enrolling patients in the American Lung Association study.

The hope is that using c-pap at night will help asthma patients avoid airway constriction and improve their asthma symptoms night and day.

"Even during the day, there's residual effects and those airways are larger and they will not constrict as much during the day if they've been opened up at night under pressure," said Dr. Gary Salzman, a pulmonologist and UMKC Researcher.

Dr. Salzman says some patients in the study will get the real treatment. Others will receive a sham treatment in which the machine makes noise, but doesn't deliver pressure.

The study is for those who are on at least one asthma inhaler now.

"So instead of adding another inhaler, we would try this treatment to see if that would control their asthma so they wouldn't have to be on another inhaler," said Dr. Salzman.

There are downsides. Many people don't want to wear a mask at night. But Dr. Salzman says c-pap could be a good option for those who can't tolerate medication or just want a natural treatment for asthma.

For more information on the study, call 816-404-5503. UMKC is recruiting asthma patients who are non-smokers between the ages of 15 and 60 for the four-month study.

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