Through grants and other programmes, Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity supports a range of research projects at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals. One of the aims of our research grants is to give clinical researchers the opportunity to study heart and lung patients with the aim of creating new treatments or procedures to benefit patients in the future.

In 2019 the Charity awarded a grant to Suhani Patel who is studying impulse oscillometry (iOS), a test that uses sound waves rather than patient effort to test a patient’s lungs. The new test might be better for patients who find traditional lung function tests difficult due to breathlessness, or may cause them to cough. We caught up with Suhani to find out more about her work and where her research grant has taken her.

“Oscillometry was first described in 1956, but it's primarily been used in children over the last few years, because they find it difficult to coordinate the manoeuvres we would usually ask people to do for the lung function test. I wanted to see if we could try this test with patients with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, who sometimes struggle with the test due to their symptoms,” Suhani said. These are patients with scarring (fibrosis) in their lungs, which may restrict their breathing. Idiopathic means there is no known cause for the scarring.

When asked about how she felt upon receiving her fellowship in 2019, she said:

For me it was a really huge opportunity to take the next step in my research career, which the charity's helping massively with. I’m very grateful.

Suhani hopes the iOS lung function test will help understand the course of the condition in patients. “I’m currently looking at changes in the measurement over time to see if it matches changes in lung functions or symptoms, and to see if it can predict things like hospital admissions.”

Although the research is ongoing, she is optimistic. “We did some preliminary analysis and submitted an abstract to the European Respiratory Society Congress this year, which seems to indicate that the iOS lung function test does provoke lass coughing, breathlessness and fatigue than the traditional spirometry test, and has an association with forced vital capacity,” she said.

When asked what drives her, Suhani said that she really likes working with patients. “I want to work with people and do research that might have a direct impact on patients’ quality of life. If I'm able to contribute to work that can be applied a lot more widely across a patient population, then I hope I’m able to help a lot more people than I would otherwise,” she said.

The work that Suhani did for her charity research grant provided pilot data for a PhD application, which Suhani is now working towards whilst continuing her research at the hospitals. Suhani said: “The grant definitely helped me get to the point where I am now.”

Suhani will continue her research looking at iOS and IPF throughout her PhD. We wish her all the best in this research that could help patients with a very serious lung condition.

If you want to support the research that Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity is funding and help clinical researchers have an impact on future patients, you can donate or fundraise via the link below.