Main research topics:
The main research topics of the division of Pneumology are the upper and lower airway evaluation in asthma & COPD by functional imaging; sleep-related disorders; diagnosis and treatment of chronic pulmonary aspiration in children; characterising the effects of inhaled particulate matter on airways and community-based rehabilitation program for COPD patients.
Sleep-related disorders in adults and children
The topic of sleep-related disorders is one of the main foci of this unit and also runs in the paediatric unit. They not only focus on the development of guidelines (e.g. non-CPAP therapies in OSA, central breathing disturbances during sleep), the initiation of large-scale clinical trials investigating the associated cardiovascular and metabolic risks but they are also investigating novel methodologies to diagnose and monitor sleep disorders in adults and children. Therefore a new project was recently started entitled ‘NXT_sleep’ with the aim to develop a next generation sleep monitoring platform that is less obtrusive and therefore more comfortable than the traditional polysomnography, allowing recordings for more than one night in a home environment, and using new sensors that deliver complete and useful information regarding the physiological parameters relevant for sleep-related breathing disorders. This research resulted in several manuscripts and two PhD theses (Stijn Verhulst and Kim Van Hoorenbeeck) and an ongoing PhD in children (Annelies Van Eyck).
Functional imaging in patients with asthma, COPD, sleep-related disorders
Functional imaging gives us a more detailed information of the three-dimensional structure of the airways (regional hyperinflation, airway resistance) and is investigated as a helpful tool to predict therapy outcomes of inhalant therapy in patients with asthma and COPD (internal flow distribution). Functional imaging was shown to be useful in predicting the outcome and therefore in the decision-making process of treatment choices in individual patients with sleep-related disorders. This topic resulted in a PhD (Wim Vos) as well as in numerous publications.
Inhaled particulate matter and their effects on airways
The potential danger of indoor air pollution is assessed by the determination of the exact chemical composition of the gaseous phase (for health relevant components) with special attention to the fine and ultrafine fraction in the air. Specific stress is laid on the chemical composition and the properties of the individual particles. The main objectives of this research line are the description of environmental exposure in particulate cases and the deposition patterns of inhaled particles.
Community-based rehabilitation programs for patients with COPD
Fysical activity is recognised as a reliable predictor of mortality and hospital admissions in patients with COPD. It might also influence the comorbidities and extra-pulmonary complaints of these patients affecting their quality of life. In this project we aim to develop an interdisciplinary intervention in an early stage of COPD in order to increase the daily physical activity of COPD patients (ongoing PhD of Glenn Leemans).
Respiratory physical training uses a lot of different techniques in different clinical settings and different patient populations. The effectiveness of this training programmes is measured using different outcome parameters. Functional imaging in combination with the more classical outcome parameters might offer an opportunity to objectively measure the efficacy of respiratory physical training (ongoing PhD Kris Ides).