Several years ago a procedure called volume reduction surgery was studied. This surgical procedure was designed to remove overinflated, non-functioning lung tissue from patients with severe emphysema. The studies found that about 25% of the selected patients received benefit from the procedure. Like most surgeries, no matter how careful you are there are always potential complications.
Researchers have been looking for ways to get the same therapeutic effect without requiring surgery. So-called bronchial valves have found their way into the mix of therapies for these unfortunate patients. These tiny valves are placed in the airways of patients with overinflated lungs due to emphysema. They are designed to permit only one way flow in the air tube. Air can come out of the portion of lung controlled by the valve, but no air can go back. The valves are placed in the airways using a standard flexible bronchoscope. This “scope” can direct the valve into a predetermined airway with little, if any, trauma.
Before you sign up for one of the valve trials, let me be sure you understand that even this simpler procedure has potential risks. These risks include, but are not limited to: infection, bleeding, cough and dislodgement. Like most treatments, some patients have done very well, while others have not.My opinion on this approach to treating patients with severe emphysema and hyper-inflated lungs has not been fully formed. I am always optimistic about cutting edge therapies including this one. I think we need a bit more time to see how these valves work out.