AeriSeal System appears to be effective in treating emphysema

Published on November 3, 2012 at 1:21 AM · No Comments

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham injected a foam sealant into the lungs of a former smoker on Oct. 29, 2012, to treat his worsening emphysema. He was the first patient in the United States treated in a late-stage clinical trial of the AeriSeal System. The therapy, approved for use in parts of Europe and Israel, is undergoing investigation in the U.S. as a potential method of reducing lung volume in patients with severe emphysema.

Emphysema, a lung disease usually caused by smoking, damages air sacs in the lung called alveoli. The sacs fill with air that the body is unable to exhale, causing the lungs to expand. This in turn flattens the diaphragm, the primary muscle used for breathing. The flattened diaphragm is unable to function properly, making it extremely difficult for the individual to breathe. An estimated 4.9 million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema.

A treatment known as lung volume reduction surgery has been employed to treat emphysema with some success. In the procedure, diseased portions of the lungs are surgically removed, allowing the lungs to return to a more normal size. This in turn allows the diaphragm to resume normal function. However, lung volume reduction surgery comes with substantial risk, including a 50 percent risk of major cardiac or pulmonary complications.

"We have been in search of a less-invasive way to achieve the same goal of lung reduction, without the risks inherent in surgery," says Mark Dransfield, M.D., associate professor in the division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine and primary investigator in the new study.

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