Easy on the lungs

Easy on the lungs

A novel tool helps doctors diagnose patients with little breathing effort
May 9, 2013

It is estimated that three million Canadians live with asthma and every year, more than 250 die from it. Most of these deaths, however, could have been prevented with proper diagnosis, education and management.


Repeatedly blowing hard into a tube (TOP) for a certain
amount of time is no easy task for young children and
impossible for unconscious patients. Yet it is the current
method used by doctors to diagnose asthma. With a new
device (ABOVE) called the tremoFlo™, developed
THORASYS Inc. at Dalhousie University, doctors can
easily diagnose any patient just by having them breathe
normally into this small but great tool.
Photo credit: THORASYS Thoracic Medical Systems Inc./
Dalhousie University

To detect asthma, current diagnosis tools use the spirometer technique, which requires patients to blow as much air as possible, as hard as possible, through a flow-sensing device. According to Geoff Maksym, Director of the School of Biomedical Engineering at Dalhousie University, this is difficult for elderly patients, near impossible for young children and unconscious patients. If the procedure isn’t done correctly, there is an increased chance the device will misread, reducing the reliability of data and increasing the risk of misdiagnosis.

With expertise in asthma and strong connections to leaders in the medical device industry, Maksym set out to create a better tool for measuring airway function. Maksym and his team created the TremoFlo™ C-100, a small, hand-held device that pushes small waves of air into a patient’s mouth to determine how hard it is for the air to move in and out of the lungs as the patient breathes normally. Since the tool works with regular breathing, it can even be used on someone who is unconscious.

Working with industry partners, Maksym help found Thorasys, a company that aims to bring the TremoFlo™ C-100 to market. The company also developed a novel method called Airwave Oscillometry™ to measure lung function without patient effort. The TremoFlo™ C-100 is the world’s first Airwave Oscillometry System (AOS™). Thorasys has received a financial boost of $500,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to help commercialize its innovative device, and hopes to have a product ready for use in Canada, Europe and several other countries within three months, and in the United States before 2014.