If you take a moment to think about it, we all know someone who suffers from a chronic respiratory ailment and has been in and out of hospitals in search of a remedy to ameliorate their symptoms. It is estimated that about one in every five Ugandans experience difficulty in breathing and this proportion, alongside severity of disease, increases with age. Proper diagnosis is a key step in managing chronic respiratory illnesses such that appropriate treatment can be instituted. Ugandans will soon have a reason to smile as the first full pulmonary function assessment equipment was unveiled on the 31st August 2018 at the Makerere University Lung Institute located at the College of Health Sciences, Mulago. The function was graced by the College Principal, Prof. Charles Ibingira who noted that the equipment would ‘improve lung science teaching, care and research.’
The equipment was donated by Lung Institute collaborators in the UK through the efforts of the Institute’s Co-Director Dr. Rupert Jones of the University of Plymouth. The Institute received a full set of pulmonary function assessment equipment able to conduct full spirometry, lung volume tests by the nitrogen wash out method and lung diffusion tests by determining the diffusing capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide (DLCO, also known as transfer factor for carbon monoxide). Also included was an assortment of pulmonary function test consumables. Dr. Bruce Kirenga, the Director of the Lung Institute who was present at the unveiling was ‘excited to receive this equipment and the Lung Institute is going to be one of the very few centres to offer these services in sub-Saharan Africa.’ He also noted that the equipment would be critical for the complete assessment of patients with unexplained shortness of breath, a common group of patients in the Ugandan setting. Although some centres in Uganda can appropriately diagnose patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, this equipment will be vital for assessing patients with persistent shortness of breath for whom no diagnosis has been made. This is in line with the Lung Institute’s mission of conducting high quality lung health research that integrates disease prevention, clinical care and training in sub-Saharan Africa. Pulmonary assessment services are open to the public on referral and appointment basis at the Lung Institute clinic on weekdays from 8:00am to 5:00pm.