New lung valve makes breathing easier - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

New lung valve makes breathing easier

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(02/05/14) - A new device is offering relief to people with COPD, with fewer complications than current treatments.

Right now, 24 million Americans live with the misery of COPD. Surgery is an option for a lot of people, but a new treatment is making breathing easier with much less down time and pain.

Charlene Kelly may have to schlep an oxygen tank, but she says breathing is actually easier these days, "I can feel that my breathing has improved over the last four years."

That is because of a new intra-bronchial airway valve. It is surgically implanted. A flexible tube with a camera at the end of it helps to guide the small, umbrella-shaped valve inside the airway of the lungs. The device redirects air from unhealthy to healthy parts of the lung.   

"I definitely feel like we've helped some people have much better lives," says Dr. Kyle Hogarth of The University of Chicago.

Charlene says, prior to getting the IBV, her emphysema prevented her from doing just about everything, "I didn't sleep well. I'd wake up in the morning and I would be as tired as I was went to bed."

Despite her discomfort, traditional surgery to remove the damaged parts of Charlene's lungs was just too risky.

The downtime, says Dr. Hogarth, is intense, "the recovery time for a lung surgery is weeks. the recovery time for a bronchoscopy is a day."

The new valve should last for about 14 years, he says, "10 years from now we'll go and replace them for her, maybe we'll have even better technology then. Oh heck, I hope by then I'm growing lung, I'll just give her a new lung."     

Pneumonia, irritation, coughing and excess mucus are risks associated with the new valve. The device can easily be removed if those side effects are severe.

The lung valve is in the final phases of trials in the United States, and it's already widely used in Europe.

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