Emphysema is an advanced form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Doctors estimate that more than 24 million people in the United States have emphysema or another form of COPD.
This progressive, debilitating disease, is characterized by irreversible destruction of air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, which decreases air flow. This progressive destruction makes it difficult to breathe, making even simple daily activities a challenge.
The most common symptom of emphysema is a chronic cough. Additional symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent lung infections
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
The most common cause of emphysema is cigarette smoking. Quitting smoking can help prevent you from getting the disease. If you already have emphysema, not smoking might keep it from getting worse.
While COPD and emphysema are not curable, there are treatments that can help you manage the disease. Treatment for emphysema varies based on your symptoms, but often begins with medication management including inhalers and medications to manage symptoms.
As the disease progresses, oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation may be prescribed. Once medical therapy has achieved maximum benefit, the remaining options for treatment have been limited to surgical lung volume reduction or lung transplantation, until recently.
Bronchoscopic Lung Volume Reduction (BLVR) for Emphysema
BLVR, using the FDA-approved Zephyr endobronchial valve, is a new, minimally invasive treatment option that has shown to greatly improve quality of life. The Zephyr Valve is the most studied endobronchial device for emphysema and consistently proves to be a safe and effective treatment for patients with severe emphysema.
Patients who have undergone this procedure experience benefits, including:
- Ability to walk longer distances
- Increased energy
- Increased lung function
- Less shortness of breath
- Return to activities that were limited previously
BLVR is only available at select centers across the United States, including Froedtert Hospital.
How BLVR Works
During this minimally invasive procedure, a physician places tiny valves in the airways to block diseased parts of the lungs to reduce hyperinflation. This helps the healthier parts of the lungs to expand and lifts pressure off the diaphragm, decreasing shortness of breath and making breathing easier. Patients are under general anesthesia for the whole procedure, which generally takes 30 to 60 minutes.
After the placement of endobronchial valves, most patients will stay at in the hospital for three nights for observation.
If you would like to talk with our care team to determine if you may be a candidate for BLVR, call 414-805-3666. If you are a physician with a patient who may be a candidate for BLVR or you would like more information, please call 414-805-4700.