Video games may help clear airway of cystic fibrosis patients

April 30, 2011

DENVER - Video games controlled by the player's breath can encourage youths with cystic fibrosis to use techniques that can help keep their airways clearer, according to a study to be presented Saturday, April 30, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Denver.

Cystic fibrosis, one of the most common chronic lung diseases in children and young adults, causes mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive tract. To clear mucus from the airways, patients must do breathing exhalation maneuvers called "huffing" several times a day. Many children, however, refuse, preferring to play video games instead, according to Peter M. Bingham, MD, lead author of the study.

"These are kids who are often lonely and frustrated with their medical treatments, and who turn to video games for fun," said Dr. Bingham, associate professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of Vermont and pediatric neurologist at Fletcher Allen Health Care.

The researchers decided to capitalize on their patients' penchant for video games by designing software that encourages them to use the breathing techniques. Instead of using a handheld controller, the game is controlled by a digital spirometer, a device that measures how fast and how much air the player breathes out.

In one game, created by students at Champlain College in Vermont, the player's breath drives the movement of a race car down a track and allows the player to fill up the gas tank and wash the car. In another game, the player explores a wilderness, looking for treasure. When the player encounters an animal covered in slime, he or she blows the slime off the animal to earn more treasure.

"The medical goal of the games was to increase breathing maneuvers that respiratory therapists believe can help keep the airways of cystic fibrosis patients clearer," Dr. Bingham said.

Before the study began, 13 children ages 8-18 years underwent pulmonary function tests. Then they participated in a game phase and a control phase for two to four weeks each. During both phases, they were given a computer and spirometer. During the game phase, they also had access to the games that were controlled by the spirometer.

Results showed that few subjects were carrying out the recommended huffing with any regularity before the study. During the study, subjects were huffing more than they did before the study, although there was no difference in the amount of huffing in the game period compared to the control period.

"Both parts of the study apparently got subjects focused on and involved with using the spirometer to do the recommended forced exhalations," Dr. Bingham said.

A surprising result was that even though subjects used the spirometer during game play and the control period, their ability to take a deep breath (termed vital capacity) improved significantly only after game play.

"We aren't sure why that improvement happened," Dr. Bingham said, "but it could be that the player's ability to carry out the vital capacity test improved simply because they were practicing this skill more often, and not because of an actual improvement in their lungs."

"In sum, we think that these results show that using spirometer games can be a good way to involve children in respiratory therapy," he said. "I think it's ethical and appropriate to meet kids 'where they are' with some engaging, digital games that can help them take charge of their own health."
-end-
To view the abstract, go to http://www.abstracts2view.com/pas/view.php?nu=PAS11L1_3660.

The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) are four individual pediatric organizations who co-sponsor the PAS Annual Meeting - the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research, the Academic Pediatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Members of these organizations are pediatricians and other health care providers who are practicing in the research, academic and clinical arenas. The four sponsoring organizations are leaders in the advancement of pediatric research and child advocacy within pediatrics, and all share a common mission of fostering the health and well being of children worldwide. For more information, visit www.pas-meeting.org. Follow news of the PAS meeting on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PedAcadSoc.

American Academy of Pediatrics

Related Cystic Fibrosis Articles from Brightsurf:

Treating cystic fibrosis with mRNA therapy or CRISPR
The potential for treating cystic fibrosis (CF) using mRNA therapies or CRISPR gene editing is possible regardless of the causative mutation.

Cystic fibrosis: why so many respiratory complications?
Cystic fibrosis, one of the most common genetic diseases in Switzerland, causes severe respiratory and digestive disorders.

A newly discovered disease may lead to better treatment of cystic fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is the most frequent severe inherited disorder worldwide.

New treatment kills off infection that can be deadly to cystic fibrosis patients
The findings, which are published in the journal Scientific Reports, show that scientists from Aston University, Mycobacterial Research Group, combined doses of three antibiotics -- amoxicillin and imipenem-relebactam and found it was 100% effective in killing off the infection which is usually extremely difficult to treat in patients with cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis carriers are at increased risk for cystic fibrosis-related conditions
A University of Iowa study challenges the conventional wisdom that having just one mutated copy of the cystic fibrosis (CF) gene has no effects on a person's health.

Rare mutations drive cystic fibrosis in Caribbean
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) in the Caribbean is dominated by unusual gene mutations not often observed in previously studied CF populations, according to comprehensive genome sequencing led by physician-scientists at UC San Francisco and Centro de Neumología Pediátrica in San Juan.

Cystic fibrosis carriers at increased risk of digestive symptoms
Researchers have found that carriers of the most common genetic variant that causes cystic fibrosis experience some symptoms similar to those of people with cystic fibrosis.

In cystic fibrosis, lungs feed deadly bacteria
A steady supply of its favorite food helps a deadly bacterium thrive in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis, according to a new study by Columbia researchers.

Cibio knocks out cystic fibrosis
The fight against cystic fibrosis continues, targeting in particular some of the mutations that cause it.

Hypertonic saline may help babies with cystic fibrosis breathe better
Babies with cystic fibrosis may breathe better by inhaling hypertonic saline, according to a randomized controlled trial conducted in Germany and published in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Read More: Cystic Fibrosis News and Cystic Fibrosis Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.