Emphysema Patients Can Breathe Easier with New Procedure 

Submitted by Dr. Melhem Imad on August 03, 2020

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A new procedure is giving emphysema patients a breath of fresh air and hope for a better quality of life without surgery. 

Bronchoscopic Lung Volume Reduction, using endobronchial valve insertion, is a new FDA-approved, minimally invasive procedure that can achieve what previously was only possible with surgery—improved lung capacity for emphysema patients. 

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Emphysema impacts quality of life.

Emphysema is one of two conditions that make up COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Despite typical inhaler therapy, patients with severe emphysema will experience a debilitating shortness of breath. This makes even basic daily tasks like getting dressed, showering or playing with the grandkids an insurmountable challenge. As a result, many emphysema patients stay at home and avoid social interaction, which can lead to depression and poor quality of life.

Shortness of breath can be reduced with endobronchial valves.

Hyperinflation is the main target for the endobronchial valves. In our lungs, there are millions of tiny air sacs that exchange oxygen called alveoli. Emphysema causes damage to many of these air sacs in the lungs. Over time, the inner walls of the damaged air sacs weaken and rupture, creating larger air spaces instead of many smaller, functional ones, which leads to hyperinflation. Simply put, too much air gets trapped in the lungs and prevents normal breathing. Meanwhile, the damaged air sacs expand, pushing on healthier air sacs, causing shortness of breath. Emphysema patients are short of breath because of the trapped air and resulting hyperinflation.

For many years, studies have shown that by removing the damaged, larger air sacs, breathing can be improved. Until recently, surgery was the only way to accomplish this. But finally, there is a less invasive, FDA-approved option that involves no cutting  called Bronchoscopic Lung Volume Reduction, the procedure involves implantation of tiny one-way endobronchial valves to deflate the bad parts of the lung.  

Zephyr valves are the first non-surgical option for emphysema patients.

Zephyr endobronchial valves are the first FDA-approved one-way valves available in the US. They are inserted via bronchoscopy, with the help of a camera that goes in the wind pipes. Valves are inserted into the airways leading to the most damaged parts of the lungs, thereby deflating them. This creates more room for healthier air sacs, reducing hyperinflation and air trapping, without the need for surgical removal of the diseased parts.

Non-surgical valves reduce shortness of breath and increase lung capacity.

As a result, patients experience reduced shortness of breath and increased level of activity. Their breathing tests show improvement in lung capacity and decreased air-trapping. While every patient is unique, our team at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center has seen patients treated using this technique experience significant improvement in lung function.

Patients can qualify with an initial phone call and health assessment.

Not every patient with emphysema is eligible for the valves. A breathing study (PFT), CT scan and basic blood work helps us select eligible patients. Other requirements include pulmonary rehabilitation participation, smoking cessation and weight management. Some severe cardiac and other conditions can also impair a patient’s eligibility. Details can be discussed further during an evaluation visit.

If you suffer from emphysema and have any of the symptoms described above, it is important to speak with your primary care physician or pulmonologist about endobronchial valves as an option for you, or simply call our information line.

Dr. Melhem Imad is the only pulmonologist performing the Zephyr endobronchial valve insertion procedure in the area. He is also the first AABIP board-certified Interventional Pulmonologist in Hampton Roads and northeastern North Carolina. He earned his Interventional Pulmonology subspecialty degree at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. and is board certified in pulmonary and critical care medicine. Dr. Imad practices with Chesapeake Regional Pulmonology and the Bayview Physicians Group. Dr. Imad has office locations in Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Elizabeth City.

To learn more about the procedure or schedule a visit contact Vicky West, RN, BSN Thoracic and Lung Health Navigator at 757-312-3012.