Case study

Trial to help
in their

Exercise Physiology academic Dr Mark Faghy has adapted a technique normally used to enhance the performance of athletes so it can be used by patients suffering from respiratory problems. He is now hoping to embark on a full clinical trial with pneumonia patients.

A chance meeting

Dr Faghy, Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology, had been investigating how the respiratory muscle function of military personnel could be improved through training. But a chance meeting with clinicians at the Royal Derby Hospital took his research in an entirely new direction.

He explains: “The clinicians were particularly interested in one of the techniques I had been looking at in occupational settings, inspiratory muscle training (IMT). This is a technique that aims to improve the strength and function of the respiratory muscles through resisted breathing exercises.

"The clinicians saw synergies with their patients and their reported outcomes, and we discussed how this training method might help patients in their recovery.”

Fast forward five years and Dr Faghy’s team have completed an 18-month study to determine whether respiratory patients can tolerate resisted breathing techniques like IMT. Thanks to some really positive initial findings, they are now specifically looking at how IMT can help patients recovering from community-acquired pneumonia, which will be a research first. The team also received a positive reception when they presented their findings at the prestigious British Thoracic Society Winter Meeting.

The Human Science Research Centre team from our College of Science and Engineering have submitted a funding bid to the National Institute for Health Research so they can take the work to full clinical trial.

From one arena to another

IMT has been used in the Sport Science arena for around 20 years but the challenge was in adapting the technique for use within clinical groups.

Dr Faghy explains: “We had to spend considerable time working with patient groups to change our protocols and make sure they were appropriate for a different clientele. You can push an athlete to train hard but, with a patient who is unwell, you need to be mindful of their physical and mental state.

“It took us about a year to adapt the protocols. During this time, we engaged regularly with a patient and public-involvement group in Nottingham, as well as the developers of the IMT devices we were using.”

Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, and the Royal Derby and Burton Hospitals Trust were key partners in this research project.

Mark Faghy smiling
Professor in Clinical Exercise Science

Mark is a Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology in the School of Human Sciences and an active researcher in the Human Science Research Centre.

A bright future

The initial findings of this research are really positive, showing increased respiratory muscle strength as well as reductions in important symptoms, and it's already attracted international attention. This led to Dr Faghy flying to Japan to deliver a keynote presentation.

The team are mindful, however, of the need for further evidence to see how this, and other interventions from the sport sciences can be used to help clinical groups. They are now fully focused on the next phase. “We are working collectively to identify funding sources to allow us to run a full clinical trial,” says Dr Faghy. “This will enable us to increase the depth of the research and fully understand the benefits that IMT could bring to individual patients and the NHS. The future looks bright.” 

a mother holds a happy child above her head

Human Sciences Research Centre

Our Human Sciences Research Centre conducts theoretical and applied research into the prevention and treatment of diseases and into improvements to the quality of life for people of all ages.

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