Published on January 26, 2022

Better Breathing during COVID-19 and Beyond: Ozarks Healthcare brings Pulmonology Care to Gainesville, Mountain Grove, Thayer, and Winona

We are in a time when our lungs are challenged to stay healthy now more than ever due to threats of respiratory illness such as COVID-19 and environmental risk factors. Ozarks Healthcare’s pulmonologists are stressing the importance of lung health and making medical help easily accessible by traveling to outlying family medicine clinics to provide care.

Dr. Biplab Saha and Dr. Praveen Datar are both pulmonologists at Ozarks Healthcare’s Heart and Lung Center in West Plains and have recently started seeing patients at Ozarks Healthcare's locations in Gainesville, Mountain Grove, Thayer, and Winona. According to Dr. Saha, some of the lung conditions they are now commonly treating are severe.

“Our patient population in our rural areas seem to be sicker and more advanced,” Dr. Saha said. “We are primarily seeing patients with asthma, COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], lung cancer, and some interstitial lung diseases.”

While not always deemed as causes, hazards to lung health include tobacco or cigarette smoke, household carcinogens, outdoor air pollution, allergens, and now, the after-effects – often referred to as “long-haulers” - of COVID-19. Dr. Saha and Dr. Datar use rapid diagnostic evaluation through advanced bronchoscopic procedures and work with primary care providers to develop a specific care plan and continuum of care for each patient. While the conditions they are treating are serious, Dr. Saha says the specialized treatment options both he and Dr. Datar provide are helping patients’ lung health improve.

“We are using medications, sometimes very specialized and recently Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved, for certain diseases with great success,” Dr. Saha said. “We also offer a multitude of procedures, including bronchoscopy, endobronchial ultrasound bronchoscopy (EBUS), navigational bronchoscopy, and pleural procedures to diagnose and manage patients.”

A bronchoscopy is a procedure that uses a flexible, lighted tube to examine a patient’s airways. EBUS bronchoscopy is slightly more advanced, and is used to diagnose different types of lung disorders, including inflammation, infections, or cancer. Pleural procedures, such as a pleural fluid analysis, can be used to examine the small space between the lungs and chest wall. These procedures can be used to determine the cause of fluid accumulation around one or both lungs.

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to be at new highs, health officials are learning more about the damage it can cause on lungs. Research has shown COVID-19 can lead to acute respiratory syndrome and damage to the walls of the air sacs in the lungs. Scarring, infection, and even infection in the lungs can all be left behind from COVID-19. Dr. Saha and Dr. Datar are able to provide all aspects of COVID-19 care, from inpatient (hospital) to outpatient settings.

“The lung damage from COVID-19 can be extensive, and it is very important to educate and support patients through that phase,” Dr. Saha said. “Sometimes, a previously present mild respiratory illness gets exacerbated by COVID-19, also making things worse for patients. There are less well-known complications of COVID-19, such as myocarditis, skeletal muscle dysfunction, which can also negatively affect patients’ health, and respiratory status.”

As more information is still emerging on long-term damaging effects from COVID-19, Dr. Saha says both he and Dr. Datar are following the latest research to implement any new care methods that may prove effective.

“Regarding long haulers of COVID-19, it truly is challenging and gratifying to take care of these patients,” Dr. Saha said. “A number of things can happen with them after COVID-19, and seeing them get better is very rewarding. We are following the latest research data to take care of these individuals.”

Especially as COVID-19 is still a relatively new hazard to lung health, Dr. Saha says it is important to take care of your lungs and stay mindful of their critical duties to helping keep you alive.

“The extent of lung damage and respiratory impairment from COVID-19 varies from patient to patient,” Dr. Saha said. “It is impossible to predict the susceptibility pattern among patients. This is why it’s crucial to do all we can to stay healthy and continue to take care of existing chronic lung conditions.”

Ozarks Healthcare’s Heart and Lung Center treats all diseases associated with the lungs and the respiratory system. Pulmonologists Dr. Saha and Dr. Datar are experts in respiratory diseases, including asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, lung cancer, interstitial lung diseases, cystic fibrosis, pleural effusion, pulmonary hypertension, effects of COVID-19, and more. Ozarks Healthcare’s pulmonology services also include a pulmonary rehabilitation program, which is designed to help patients overcome difficult respiratory symptoms and improve day-to-day activities through exercise training and behavioral and educational programs. Physicians, respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians, social workers, mental health care providers, and exercise specialists all compose Ozarks Healthcare’s pulmonary rehabilitation program team. For more information, visit https://www.ozarkshealthcare.com/services/pulmonology/ or call 417-257-5950.

Ozarks Healthcare is a system of care encompassing primary care and specialty clinics, along with complete rehabilitation, behavioral healthcare, and home health services. While the 114-bed acute care hospital cares for more than 5,400 admissions, the entire health system has more than 364,000 patient visits annually in South Central Missouri and Northern Arkansas. For more information about Ozarks Healthcare, visit www.OzarksHealthcare.com.

Dr. Biplab Saha and Dr. Praveen Datar, pulmonologists at Ozarks Healthcare’s Heart and Lung Center

Dr. Biplab Saha (left) and Dr. Praveen Datar (right) are both pulmonologists at Ozarks Healthcare’s Heart and Lung Center in West Plains and also see patients at Ozarks Healthcare's locations in Gainesville, Mountain Grove, Thayer, and Winona.

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