New medical device helps with panic attacks

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A new medical device is helping panic-attack patients breathe a little easier. (KABC)

A new device is helping panic-attack patients breathe a little easier.

With assistance from the Freespira Breathing System, 52-year-old Marge Fekete can now have coffee for the first time in months,

Doctors had banned caffeine because of Fekete's panic disorder. The attacks began more than three decades ago when she suffered two personal tragedies - the death of her father when she was 12 and the murder of her brother when she was 20.

They later subsided, but returned about two years ago after she changed jobs and moved. Then the attacks began hitting every few days.

"I was a prisoner in my own home for about six months," she said.

Her doctor helped teach her relaxation and deep breathing, but also recommended a new tool, the Freespira device.

Patients wear a cannula - a medical tube - attached to a tablet and follow a program to measure their breathing. They breathe in when they hear a tone go up and exhale when it goes down. The device helps them track their respiratory rate and exhaled carbon-dioxide levels.

A recent trial of the system found 98 percent of patients reporting a reduction in panic attacks and 64 percent were free from those episodes after the treatment.

Fekete, who trained for 17 minutes twice a day for four weeks to use the device, said she is not fully cured but the system and medication have made a big difference.

"I have my life back," she said. "It's normal again."
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