Specialist Centers Key to Treating Cystic Fibrosis

Outlook has steadily improved thanks to more aggressive treatment
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) -- Earlier diagnosis and more aggressive treatment at specialized centers has improved the outlook for cystic fibrosis patients, and the disease's underlying molecular-biological origins are now well understood, according to an article published online on April 28 in The Lancet.

Brian P. O'Sullivan, M.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, and Steven D. Freedman, M.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, reviewed both the clinical care of cystic fibrosis and the recent advances in scientists' understanding of the disease, and note that novel treatments are in the pipeline, with one, hypertonic saline, already being used to treat patients.

The authors summarize the range of symptoms associated with cystic fibrosis, including gastrointestinal symptoms, pulmonary disease and endocrine disorders, and conclude that it is a multifaceted disease requiring careful consideration of both pulmonary and nutritional variables. Only specialist centers can provide the required depth of care, they assert.

"Physicians alone cannot provide adequate care; a team consisting of nurses, nutritionists, respiratory therapists, social workers, and others is necessary to achieve the best outcomes," the authors conclude. "The goal in 2009 is to preserve lung function by maximizing current treatment regimens, so that patients can benefit fully from future therapies that could correct the basic defect and turn cystic fibrosis into a manageable disease."

Freedman is a co-inventor on a cystic fibrosis treatment patent application through Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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