ST. LOUIS – Doctors at Mercy Hospital St. Louis were the first in the area to offer a revolutionary lung valve option to help emphysema patients breathe easier without major surgery.
The Zephyr ® Endobronchial Valve treatment was recently approved under the Food and Drug Administration’s “Breakthrough Devices” status. Adding the valve is a major advancement as the first minimally invasive procedure to help emphysema sufferers improve lung function, shortness of breath, exercise capacity and overall quality of life.
“Everything was so difficult before the valve, even with oxygen,” said Pam Marx, 70, of The Hill neighborhood in St. Louis. She has battled severe COPD since 2015. “I wasn’t able to make it through a shower without losing my breath and getting down the steps to my detached garage was a nightmare.”
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death worldwide and includes the presence of emphysema, which is progressive and results in permanent destruction of lung tissue. Air then becomes trapped in the diseased parts of the lung and patients having difficulty breathing.
“Until now, patients only had one option when it came to improving lung volume – surgery,” said Dr. Dayton Dmello, pulmonologist with Mercy Clinic Pulmonology St. Louis. “This procedure is safer than surgery and can benefit a select subset of patients with severe emphysema who don’t see improvement with medical management, oxygen therapy and rehabilitation.”
The valves have been shown to reduce hyperinflation. They work by preventing air from being trapped in the diseased area of the lung and allowing healthier parts of the lung to take in more air.
The one-time procedure done during a simple bronchoscopy requires no cutting or incisions. Patients receive a local anesthetic, a tube with a small camera is inserted into the lungs through the nose or mouth and the Zephyr Valves are placed in the airways. After a short hospital stay for observation, patients will go home and continue to use the medicines prescribed for their condition.
“My quality of life has improved 10-fold,” Marx said. “While the disease doesn’t go away, I am able do things I enjoy such as light gardening. Even talking on the phone, I don’t have to stop for extra breath.”
Marx said she can now “home walk” around the house for 45 minutes without getting winded. “I can even sing and walk, which would have been unheard of before.”