The official blog of the Lung Institute.
The history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and the history of COPD treatment can be traced back to the mid-1600s. Doctors and respiratory medicine pioneers developed a better understanding of COPD even before there was a proper name for it. They worked to identify common symptoms, devices for the diagnosis of COPD and eventually COPD treatments.
The most common causes of COPD include smoking and breathing in second-hand smoke, air pollutants and particulates and genetic disorders, particularly alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. The history of COPD treatment has many key players, and with the development of new medical technologies, more people are diagnosed and treated sooner.
Developments in the History of COPD Treatment
The knowledge of COPD began to develop with the writings of Theophile Bonet, a Swiss-born physician. Bonet referred to lungs with COPD as voluminous lungs. In 1769, an Italian anatomist named Giovani Morgagni reported 19 cases of what he called turgid lungs, meaning lungs that were swollen, distended or congested.
In 1814, British physician Charles Badham was the first person to refer to the chronic inflammation of the mucous membrane in the lungs, and he identified bronchiolitis and chronic bronchitis as debilitating health conditions.
Advances in Tools and Devices in the History of COPD Treatment
The history of COPD started a long time ago. In 1821, René Laënnec, the doctor who invented the stethoscope, discovered emphysema as a part of COPD. Because smoking during the early 1800s was not common, Laënnec identified environmental and genetic factors as the primary causes of COPD. While Laënnec is correct in identifying environmental and genetic factors as causes of COPD, it is well-known today that smoking is one of the leading causes of COPD.
Years later in 1846, John Hutchinson invented the spirometer, and Robert Tiffeneau, a respiratory medicine pioneer, built on Hutchinson’s invention about 100 years later. Tiffeneau created a complete diagnostic instrument for COPD, and the spirometer, which measure vital lung capacity, is still an essential device in diagnosing COPD today.
How COPD is Known Today
In 1959, the Ciba Guest Symposium, a medical professional gathering, defined the parts that make up the definition and diagnosis of COPD as it is known today. COPD used to be called chronic airflow obstruction and chronic obstructive lung disease. However, at the 9th Aspen Emphysema Conference in 1965, Dr. William Briscoe is thought to be the first person to use the term COPD.
In 1976, a doctor named Charles Fletcher, linked smoking to COPD. Along with his colleagues, Fletcher found that stopping smoking could help slow the progression of COPD and that continuing to smoke would make COPD progress faster. Fletcher’s work provided scientific information for smoking cessation in people with COPD and is still used today.
Early Therapies in COPD Treatment
By the mid-20th century, a better understanding of the disease and advancements in medicine started with the use of antibiotics, mucus thinners like potassium iodide and also ephedrine and theophylline.
COPD Treatment in the 60s
During the 1960s, the use of a short-acting beta-2 agonists named isoproterenol, as an inhaled therapy, was first used as a COPD treatment. These treatments relax the muscles that line the lungs, allowing for increased airflow within minutes. A group of researchers at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver did one of the first trials of oxygen therapy in the mid-1960s. Over time, oxygen therapy developed further and is a common treatment for COPD.
Treating COPD Today
Since the 1990s, an emphasis has been placed on the use of medications, such as bronchodilators and corticosteroids. The combination of these agents helps people breathe better, and long-term oxygen therapy is used to ensure the person receives enough oxygen.
Additionally, it is common to recommend a physician-monitored exercise routine be started to increase lung strength and endurance. Pulmonary rehabilitation, smoking cessation education and clean air awareness have become important in the management of COPD. Many physicians look for a specific cause of COPD, if one can be found, in order to develop the best treatment plan for the patient.
New to the history of COPD treatment is cellular therapy. In cellular therapy, the cells are extracted from the patient through blood or bone marrow, separated in our onsite lab and then reintroduced to the patient intravenously. Because cellular therapy works to promote healing from within, many patients report experiencing an improved quality of life after treatment. If you or a loved one has COPD, emphysema or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about your cellular therapy options, feel free to contact us at (800) 729-3065 and start your path to breathing easier.