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NEWS | Feb. 19, 2013

A breath of fresh air: Langley pulmonology breathes easy

By Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The average adult takes a breath about 17 times every minute. When that rate fluctuates unnaturally, pulmonologists step in.

Pulmonology is the study of the lungs and respiratory system. When Department of Defense employees, Service members or their families feel a little short of breath, the pulmonology team at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley at Langley Air Force Base, Va., gives them a little breathing room.

"Our job is to help patients breathe easier," said Dr. (Maj.) Adam Bostick, Director of Pulmonary and Critical-Care Medicine. "We have the facilities to both diagnose and treat patients with a wide range of respiratory problems."

"Many diseases and injuries affect the respiratory system at one point or another," said Bostick. "Really, the pulmonologist has to be a jack-of-all-trades."

The core of Bostick's work consists of diagnosing and treating patients with cancer, poor blood oxygenation or among other diseases, to include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma. He spends the rest of his time helping doctors from multiple clinics evaluate and diagnose patients. Given the wide array of equipment at his disposal, Bostick can provide additional data to his fellow doctors.

The clinic usually treats approximately 40 patients a week in a variety of clinical suites. Asthma testing rooms and a new bronchoscopy suite allow the doctors to conduct more complex diagnosis and treatment.

With the versatility and wide-ranging skill set of a pulmonologist, Bostick is often tasked with duty at the intensive care unit. Patients with severe infections resulting in low blood pressure and patients suffering from respiratory failure are examples of patient treated in the ICU. Bostick can perform surgical procedures and diagnostics quickly for these patients to get them back on the road to recovery.

"I often work in the ICU," said Bostick. "It is imperative that a patient can breathe, and it is the job of the ICU doctor to make sure that happens."

Bostick and other doctors also perform invasive procedures in the ICU and at the clinic. For instance, when fluid fills the area directly around the lungs, patients suffer from a shortness of breath because their lungs cannot fully expand. Doctors then perform a thoracentesis, where they make a small hole in the area outside the lung and draw fluid for study.

The pulmonology clinic also performs other, less invasive procedures on a daily basis. On Feb. 12, Bostick conducted a bronchoscopy on Master Sgt. Darwin Mallari, Headquarters Air Combat Command, command support section superintendent.

A bronchoscopy is a procedure where a doctor slides a tube through a patient's nasal airway. The tube has a small camera attached to it and an opening through which a brush or fluids can be inserted. The doctor checks the inside of the patient's lungs for obstructions or disease, and then uses treated water or the brush to take samples to further test a patient's health.

Mallari underwent conscious sedation during the procedure.

"I think it went pretty smoothly," said Mallari after the procedure. "I am definitely happy the procedure could be done here."

If not for the facilities offered at Langley, Mallari would need to travel to Portsmouth for his procedure, which is an hour away from his house. Since Langley has expanded its capabilities, Mallari was relieved to discover his procedure would instead be ten minutes away.

Not only was he happy with the location; he was also pleased with the care he received. Soon after the procedure, Mallari was released from the hospital.

"I knew they were trying to weed everything out to find my problem," said Mallari. "You can tell Dr. Bostick cares."

Whether coming out of the ICU, bronchoscopy suite or one of the testing facilities, Bostick and his team know the patients are leaving the pulmonology clinic breathing easier than before.

Langley is open to all referrals under this specialty, Pulmonary Medicine, and currently has plenty of access to accept new patients. Please call the Referral Management Center at 764-9999 for questions on how to be seen in the Pulmonology Clinic.