Patients with severe emphysema may soon be able to breathe easier with a new technology that reduces lung volume without a complicated operation. Instead of surgically taking out diseased parts of the lung, this novel approach uses steam and the body’s natural healing process to reduce the effective volume of the lung.
Removing damaged areas of the lung may help other parts of the lung function better when medication,Â supplemental oxygen and pulmonary rehabilitation are no longer helping improve patients’ quality of life. (There’s no known cure for COPD.)
Emphysema is characterized by weakened and collapsed alveoli, tiny air sacs that exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. That results in blocked air flow, inflammation of the alveoli and a host of related symptoms.
The new method identifies the damaged alveoli with a scan, isolates the affected branches with an inflatable balloon, and delivers a scalding hot steam to the blocked off parts of the lung.
Developed by Uptake Medical, InterVaporâ„¢ System uses a bronchoscope to navigate to the damaged alveoli. A tiny balloon is inflated to seal off that branch and to prevent the steam from reaching other parts of the lung.
The steam permanently damages that part of the lung, leading to the eventual formation of scar tissues. The reduction in lung volume is said to make breathing more efficient. The entire surgical process takes about 30 minutes, according to Uptake.
A study published in the European Respiratory Journal last year endorsed this procedure, saying it “results in clinically relevant improvements in lung function, quality of life and exercise tolerance in upper-lobe predominant emphysema.”
But another warned of risks. “Bronchoscopic administration of steam is a potentially safe means to achieve LVR, but substantial risks are present and further research is recommended,” researchers at the University of Washington, who used an animal model, concluded.
(Via Daily Mail)