December 30, 2020 – Many southeast Georgia residents can breathe
easier thanks to new technology at the Southeast Georgia Health System
Camden Campus. The Health System now offers a type of pulmonary function
test (PFT) previously available only in Brunswick or Jacksonville. Known
as whole-body plethysmography, the noninvasive, painless test measures
how well the lungs are working. It can detect if the patient’s lungs
were exposed to and damaged by toxic substances and also monitors lung
function in patients with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder
(COPD), lung cancer or COVID-19 complications.
“This test identifies decreases in pulmonary function a patient might
not be aware of, as well as declining lung function that requires medication
or lifestyle changes,” says
Herman Levy, M.D., board-certified pulmonologist with
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Pulmonary Medicine in St. Marys.
To perform the test, a technician asks the patient to sit or stand inside
a clear airtight chamber about the size of a telephone booth. The patient
then inhales or exhales into a breathing tube. As the patient breathes,
the plethysmograph measures air pressure changes inside the chamber and
changes in mouth pressure or flow rate under certain breathing conditions.
A disposable filtered mouthpiece is used for each test, and all surfaces
are cleaned with hospital grade germicidal wipes.
“It’s a very accurate way to measure lung function,”
says Levy. “That’s an advantage for pulmonologists and, for
patients, whole-body plethysmography is a less stressful experience compared
to less advanced testing technologies.”
Diana Cameron, RRT, manager of
Cardiopulmonary Services, agrees. “The detectors are more sensitive to patient effort. It’s
less likely they will have to repeat the test or work as hard to achieve
consistent results, so they will not feel as tired after testing.”
Another advantage is the clear testing chamber. Its walls are composed
of transparent glass, allowing patients to see the room around them as
well as their technician. Before the Camden Campus acquired whole-body
plethysmography, pediatric, claustrophobic or disabled patients had to
travel to Brunswick or Jacksonville to access this technology. If a patient
cannot get inside the chamber for any reason, testing is done outside
the unit – though results may be somewhat limited.
For anyone with lung problems, plethysmography is an ally. Levy foresees
an increased need for pulmonary function testing, especially in this day
and age. “We believe that COVID-19 may leave some people with conditions
that compromise the integrity of their lungs. Additionally, a lot of people
are told there’s nothing they can do about COPD, which may lead
them to feel depressed. Serial pulmonary function studies are an excellent
way to monitor pulmonary disease processes and prevent or slow disease
progression. It’s another way to help people achieve a better quality
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Levy, call
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Pulmonary Medicine at 912-540-6740.