New Technology Brings Relief to Patients Living With Severe Emphysema – CaroMont Health

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Gastonia, NC – Imagine trying to breathe with lungs that are already filled with air, completing daily tasks and routine activities while struggling to catch your breath. That is what it feels like to live with severe emphysema, a progressive lung disease resulting from damage to the tiny air sacs in the lungs. For thousands of patients in the region living with this disease, it can be debilitating, making it difficult to perform daily and often routine activities. But two physicians, Dr. Jay Hendler and Dr. Narayan Neupane, at CaroMont Pulmonary Medicine in Gastonia, have a new, state-of-the-art procedure to help patients breathe easier without surgical intervention.
“Patients with emphysema struggle to breathe because their lungs are so damaged and expanded,” explains Dr. Hendler. “Simple movement and exercise are difficult because the body cannot get enough air in and out, and often those suffering from emphysema have a hard time walking or even talking. There has always been medical treatment available, such as inhalers and oxygen therapy, but those only work up to a certain point in the progression of the disease. For really severe cases, treatment options have been limited to either lung volume reduction or lung transplant, both of which are major surgeries. With the new Zephyr valve procedure, a very small implant can make a huge difference for a person’s quality of life.”
The Zephyr valve is a small device, roughly the size of a corn kernel, implanted in the bronchial tubes in the lungs. The small valve allows air to only flow one way, shrinking the most diseased and inflated portions of the lung and supporting optimal function in parts of the lung that are healthy. This leads to overall better lung function, an increased ability to withstand daily activities and less shortness of breath.

Shown here, the Zephyr Valve is roughly the size of a pencil eraser and is implanted into the bronchial tubes to help shrink inflated portions of the lungs.

“A bronchoscopy, or endoscopic technique, is used to implant the Zephyr valves into the bronchial tubes,” said Dr. Neupane. “Post procedure, patients usually spend three nights in the hospital. Recovery time for a lung transplant or surgical lung volume reduction surgery is much longer than that. This advanced treatment allows us to get patients back to their lives faster.”
Depending on the degree of emphysema, the Zephyr valve implant is an option for those patients for whom traditional medical therapies are no longer controlling symptoms. Patients who believe they may be a candidate should speak with their primary care provider or pulmonologist to discuss treatment options.
“As doctors, it is our goal to help preserve or improve a patient’s quality of life,” said Dr. Neupane. “Yes, the technology is amazing, but seeing a patient who couldn’t previously walk to the mailbox regain lung function and mobility without major surgery is incredible.”

Dr. Neupane explains the Zephyr Valve treatment to his patient.