Penn Highlands Healthcare is the first medical facility in the region to offer bronchoscopic lung volume reduction using the first lung valve approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for helping emphysema patients breathe easier without major surgery.
The Zephyr Endobronchial Valve, which recently was approved by the FDA under "Breakthrough Devices" status, is a minimally invasive bronchoscopic treatment option that can improve patients' quality of life by allowing them to breathe easier, be less short of breath and be more active and energetic, according to Dr. Sandeep Bansal, medical director of The Lung Center and Intensive Care Services at Penn Highlands DuBois.
"We are very excited to have this new treatment option for our emphysema patients who consistently struggle with their breathing despite medication therapy," Bansal said. "Before the Zephyr Valve, the only options for relief were highly invasive treatments, including lung surgeries. Being able to offer this minimally invasive procedure has the potential to improve the quality of life for many emphysema sufferers in our region of Pennsylvania and beyond."
The one-time, 30- to 60-minute procedure is completed during a simple bronchoscopy that doesn't require any cutting or incisions. During the procedure, four tiny valves, on average, are placed in the airways to block off the diseased parts of the lungs where air gets trapped. Keeping air from getting trapped in the diseased parts of the lungs allows the healthier parts of the lungs to expand and take in more air. This results in patients being able to breathe easier and experience less shortness of breath.
According to Bansal, The Lung Center is now capable of performing bronchoscopic lung volume reductions using implantation of the Zephyr Valve. This treatment is performed in the Advance Bronchoscopy Suite, which is used for diagnosing and treating lung disease, at Penn Highlands DuBois. Not everyone with emphysema qualifies for this treatment. The patient selection is done based on rigorous inclusion and exclusion criteria. The treatment is performed in close collaboration by a multidisciplinary team consisting of interventional pulmonology, thoracic surgery, interventional radiology, anesthesiology and nurse and respiratory therapy navigators at The Lung Center.
Emphysema is a progressive and life-threatening lung disease, and a severe form of chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, or COPD. According to Zephyr Valve producer Pulmonx, more than 15 million Americans suffer from COPD, and 3.5 million of those patients have emphysema. Despite using COPD medications, over one million emphysema patients continue to suffer symptoms of hyperinflation, in which air becomes trapped in the lungs and prevents new air from coming in, causing severe shortness of breath. Breathing becomes inefficient and patients have to work very hard just to breathe, making normal activities, like walking, eating or even bathing, difficult. There are few treatment options for most patients with emphysema and there is no cure. Until now, the only other options for these patients were highly invasive treatments such as lung volume reduction surgery or lung transplantation.
The Zephyr Valve was approved by the FDA in July 2018. Since 2007, more than 15,000 patients have been treated with The Zephyr Valve worldwide. Zephyr Valve treatment is included in emphysema treatment recommendations issued by leading health organizations worldwide, including the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, or GOLD, and the United Kingdom's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, or NICE.