A new treatment which can significantly improve lung function measures and quality of life for patients with emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is now available at Spire Leeds Hospital. Spire Leeds Hospital is currently the only private hospital performing this procedure.*
Enlarged lungs with trapped air due to emphysema
Emphysema is a long term, progressive condition that occurs when the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lung are damaged, leading to shortness of breath and a vulnerability to other respiratory infections.
Within a normal lung, there are millions of small air sacs (alveoli) which are elastic and form a thick structure. The air sacs provide a large surface area for gases to be exchanged between the air and the blood. During inhalation (breathing in) oxygen passes into the bloodstream from the air and during exhalation (breathing out), carbon dioxide is released.
In emphysema, the walls separating the air sacs become diseased and the air sacs merge to become larger sacs. – resulting in less surface area and thus less oxygen entering the blood stream.
Normally to breathe out, the elastic nature of the lungs helps to squeeze the air out. In a diseased lung, the elastic tissue does not work very well so air becomes trapped in the large air sacs, making it difficult to breathe out (hyperinflation).
How does the new treatment work?
The newly available treatment called ‘endoscopic lung volume reduction’ is a minimally invasive non-surgical procedure that involves the insertion of ‘endobronchial valves’. Using a bronchoscope (a small flexible camera that is passed into the lungs via the nose or mouth), approximately two to five small one way valves are placed into the affected area of the lung to allow air to escape from the overinflated part of the lung. There is no need for any incision in the body.
With the valve/s in place, when a patient exhales, air and secretions are able to move through the valve and out of the lung compartment that is fed by that airway. But when the patient inhales, the valve closes and blocks air from entering that lung compartment.
Part of an enlarged lung receives valves that empty the air, making healthier parts of the lung function better
In summary, the procedure blocks the ‘bad’ parts of the lung from breathing, allowing more space for the ‘better’ parts to breathe.
Following the implantation of the valve/s, suitable patients can see an improvement in their ability to breathe, walk and exercise as well as become more independent.
Patients with significant emphysema and shortness of breath should seek medical advice regarding the possibility of having this treatment.
Is the lung volume reduction procedure covered by private medical insurance?
Yes the procedure itself is normally covered by insurers - though the cost of consumables may be extra, please check with your individual insurer.
This procedure is currently also available as a self-pay procedure.
Who performs the lung volume reduction procedure?
Endoscopic lung volume reduction is performed by consultant thoracic surgeon Mr Kostas Papagiannopoulos MD CTH, MMED THORAX.
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* Correct at the time of publishing (November 2011) but may be subject to change