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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Study: Eating More Important Than Breathing

Breathing is important. As respiratory therapists, we know this more than anyone. But a new study conducted by the Bronchodilator Reform Committee of the U.S. Government purports to show that eating is even more important that breathing.

The study involved 100 patients at Shoreline Community Hospital, all of whom were prescribed QID breathing treatments with 3cc of normal saline and 0.5cc of albuterol. All of the patients had chronic bronchitis or asthma. They were all typically short of breath when their breathing treatments were due.

Treatment times were scheduled for 8 a.m., 12 p.m., 4 p.m., and 8 p.m. The patients were asked to order a tray of food about 30 minutes prior to the time their breathing treatments were due. This gave the cafeteria plenty of time to prepare the meals and deliver them. The patients were told they would be involved in a study, but they were not told anything specific.

The therapists were asked to enter the patient's room the same time the meal arrived. They were instructed to identify themselves and to say it is time for their treatments. They were then instructed to prepare the medicine and to give the medicine to the patient either with a mouthpiece or a mask. If the patient requested to eat first, the therapists were told to try to convince them the treatment was more important than eating.
Of the 100 patients involved in the study, a whopping 60% requested that the respiratory therapist hold the breathing treatment until the meal was completed. Of these, 48.5% were persistent that they preferred eating over breathing. One such exchange went like this.

Respiratory therapist: "Mr. Smith, I am John from respiratory therapy. I am here to give you your breathing treatment."

Patient: "I will take the breathing treatment, but as soon as my tray comes I'm going to take the mask off and eat."

At this point cafeteria lady brings in the tray of food. Seemingly ignoring the fact that the tray has arrived, the therapist says to the patient: "Are you breathing okay?"

Patient: "Well, I am a little short of breath. But I'm really hungry."

Respiratory therapist: "The breathing treatment will only take a few minutes. This way we can get you breathing better so you can enjoy your meal."

Patient: "I am really hungry right now. I need to eat."

Respiratory therapist: "Are you sure?"

Patient: "I am really hungry."

The study was initially published in the Doctor's Creed Magazine. Lead researcher, Dr. Ven Tolin, suggested that the results show the importance of eating. He said, "You need to eat to have the strength to breathe. So, it only makes sense that a patient, especially one with COPD or asthma, would prefer eating over breathing."

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