Breathing Innovation: South Miami Hospital Patient Gets Valve Implant for Diseased Lung

A 79-year-old retiree with chronic emphysema, who had trouble breathing at rest, underwent a new life-altering procedure at South Miami Hospital which involves implanting an “endobronchial valve” in the diseased area of his lungs.

It was thefirst time this minimally invasive procedure, made possible by a recentapproval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was performed inMiami-Dade County.

Anendobronchial valve is a device that permits one-way air movement. Duringinhalation, the valve is closed to prevent air flow into the diseased area ofthe lung. The valve opens during exhalation to allow air to escape from thediseased area.

“He (the patient) was maximizedon medical therapy (medications and rehabilitation) and was suffering fromdepression and anxiety because he had trouble breathing at rest,” explainsMichael Hernandez, M.D., a pulmonologistaffiliated with the Lung Health Program at SouthMiami Hospital. “He often stated that ‘I cannotgo on living like this.’ He was more persistent than any patient I have met toget this procedure done once he realized this was an option.”

The patientis doing well and did not suffer any complications. He was up and walkingaround the Intensive Care Unit hours after the procedure, said Dr. Hernandez.He had suffered from hyperinflated lungs, which is when air gets trapped in thelungs and causes them to overinflate. This hyperinflation is experienced bypeople with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — a disorder that includesemphysema.

The procedure results in “lung volume reduction of the diseased lung,” says Dr. Hernandez. The previous alternative for these critical patients was very risky surgery that carried up to a 60 percent complication rate over three months, he said.

Endobronchial ValveIn June 2018, the FDA approved Zephyr endobronchial valves, manufactured by Pulmonx, as the first bronchoscopic treatment for emphysema in the U.S. for patients with hyperinflation.

“What these valves do is let air out of the target (diseased) lobe of the lung and not let air back in,” says Dr. Hernandez. “It’s basically a one way valve that causes that lobe to collapse. Once the diseased lobe collapses, the healthy lung is allowed to expand. This allows the diaphragm to rise into a more natural position. As a result of this, patients have improved lung function, and better quality of life.”

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