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Hunter asthma sufferers to benefit from new lung scan test


Severe asthma patients in the region may be able to breathe a little easier after Hunter respiratory researchers stumbled across a new use for equipment first trialled at John Hunter Hospital in 2017.

The lung scanning test detects ventilation heterogeneity (VH), a feature of
asthma that indicates small airway disease.

Asthma detection, it turns out, is a by-product.

“The test was originally developed to image blood clots in the lungs,” explains Professor Peter Gibson from Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and the University of Newcastle (UoN).

“Because of its sensitivity in the ‘silent zone’ of the lung (the notoriously difficult-to-see small airways that are 2–4mm in diameter), this test helps us see if the drugs we give patients for severe asthma are working.”

There are currently four different types of drugs given to severe asthma sufferers.

This lung canning test will help ensure patients are being prescribed the correct drug.

The original test was funded by Australian company, Cyclopharm, the producers of Technegas, as a collaboration with Hunter New England Health, the UoN and HMRI.

“This test has just been launched here in the Hunter,” says Professor Gibson.

​CEO and Managing Director of Cyclopharm, Jame McBrayer, says, “We are proud that our collaboration with such an exceptional group of clinicians and researchers in the field of respiratory medicine has led to a new application for Technegas.”

​John Hunter Hospital nuclear imaging expert Dr Natalie Rutherford and clinician researchers Professor Vanessa McDonald and Paola Urroz have also been involved in getting the test into clinical use.

“This is a safe, fast and cost-effective way of ensuring that personalised treatments work,” adds Professor Gibson.

“Previously, we have had to rely on symptom surveys from patients. This test provides accurate, objective and detailed information to support patient accounts of their symptoms.”

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