Treating Lung Disease

Lung disease is the number three killer in America, responsible for one in seven deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Respiratory Therapy Department at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center provides specialized care, for a wide range of lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Specialized care includes:

  • Assessment and treatment of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases
  • Airway management
  • Arterial blood gas testing
  • Pulmonary function testing including basic spirometry, body plethysmography and diffusion capacity
  • Respiratory mechanics including compliance, resistance, lung volumes, weaning parameters
  • Aerosol and bronchodilator therapy
  • Mechanical ventilation, both invasive and noninvasive
  • Neonatal, pediatric and adult critical care


Asthma is a chronic lung disease caused by inflammation of the breathing tubes, which leads to slowing of air flow into the lungs. The breathing tubes are sensitive, swollen or inflamed in people with asthma all or most of the time, even when there are no symptoms.

Asthma is characterized by recurrent symptoms such as a persistent cough, wheezing and breathlessness.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

The symptoms of asthma, caused by the swelling of breathing tubes, can vary among people and can include wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Other asthma symptoms can include trouble controlling a cough, a persistent cough at night, difficulty breathing during or soon after physical exertion or exercise, or waking up at night because of one or more of these symptoms.

Episodes of asthma symptoms (also called asthma attacks, flare-ups or exacerbations) occur when airways narrow, making it difficult — sometimes impossible — to breathe. Warning signs of an impending asthma attack may include coughing, chest tightness, light wheezing, restlessness when trying to sleep, irritability, itchy throat and watery eyes.

What causes asthma symptoms and attacks?

People with asthma have inflamed breathing tubes that are sensitive to things that do not bother other people. Although these asthma "triggers" vary from person to person, some of the most common include:

  • Allergens, substances that cause allergic reactions, which can include dust mites, pollens, molds, pet dander and cockroaches and their waste
  • Irritants in the air including smoke from tobacco, wood fires or charcoal grills, as well as strong fumes or odors like household sprays, paint, gasoline and perfume
  • Respiratory infections such as colds, flu, sore throats and sinus infections. These are the most common asthma triggers in children
  • Exercise and other activities that make a person breathe harder
  • Weather, especially dry wind, cold air and sudden changes

What happens during an asthma attack?

During normal breathing, the airways or breathing tubes in the lungs are fully open, allowing air to move in and out freely. But people with asthma have inflamed, supersensitive airways. Triggers irritate the sensitive airways and:

  • The lining of the airways swell and become even more inflamed
  • Mucus clogs the airways
  • The muscles around the airways tighten (known as a bronchospasm)
  • These changes narrow the airways until breathing becomes difficult and stressful, and result in asthma symptoms
For more information on resources and testing available through Summerlin Hospital's Respiratory Therapy Department, please call 702-233-7245.