One Man's Quest to Treat Chronic Bronchitis, a Type of COPD


(NewsUSA) - Over a number of years, 65-year-old Donald Summers went from having an occasional cough and clearing his throat, to increasingly frequent coughing attacks that produced mucus and exhaustion. It was aggravating and embarrassing. It also caused him to quit his job, yardwork and the long hikes he used to enjoy with his wife.

"I worked in a property maintenance job, and I just couldn't do it anymore," Summers says. "I'd get into these coughing fits, and it just drained me. I didn't have the strength."

Several years ago, when his symptoms began to worsen, Summers saw a pulmonologist, who diagnosed chronic bronchitis. The disease affects an estimated 9 million people in the U.S. and is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

Risk factors and symptoms

Chronic bronchitis can develop after exposure to cigarette smoke, vaping, airborne chemicals and other pollutants and irritants. In Summers's case, he was a long-time smoker and previously worked in steel mills and around gasoline and other petroleum products.

Patients with chronic bronchitis experience prolonged inflammation and excess mucus in the lung airways, causing a host of other potential symptoms and effects, including:

  • Excess phlegm
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Embarrassment
  • Sleep disruption

Treatments and limitations

Summers's pulmonologist prescribed a nebulizer, corticosteroids and rescue inhalers, but they didn't reduce the amount of mucus that would come up or the severity of his cough. This is not uncommon, as no treatment options are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that directly target the cells that produce mucus in chronic bronchitis.

Frustrated, Summers kept asking his physician about other possible treatments.

Persistence led to clinical study participation

Finally, Summers's pulmonologist mentioned a clinical trial for a new medical device being studied as a potential treatment for chronic bronchitis. Summers joined the study and received an investigational therapy called RheOxTM. In a minimally invasive procedure, the RheOx therapy delivers short pulses of electrical energy to the lung airways, directly targeting mucus-producing cells to reduce cough and mucus production in people with chronic bronchitis.

In three clinical trials, RheOx has shown a significant improvement in quality of life and a reduction in cough and mucus through 12 months.

Summers describes his own experience: "Before I had the RheOx clinical study procedure, I was constantly coughing and producing disgusting mucus. It affected my life, and I was embarrassed to go out in public. After the study procedure, the coughing has gotten a lot better. It's not gone, but I can go out to dinner, hike and have a much more normal life."

Next steps for those with chronic bronchitis

People experiencing symptoms of chronic bronchitis should speak to a pulmonologist. They also can find out if they might be a candidate for a larger RheOx U.S. clinical study by visiting

RheOx is approved by regulatory authorities for sale in Europe. RheOx is limited by U.S. federal law to investigational use only. This article describes examples of potential patient outcomes with RheOx. Individual patient outcomes can vary based on the condition of the patient, severity of disease and response to treatment.