The Bronchoscopic Lung Volume Reduction Program helps patients with severe COPD through a minimally invasive procedure
More than 11 million people in the U.S. live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Some patients can manage symptoms through physical therapy and oxygen therapy. But for patients with more severe COPD, the only treatment options were an invasive lung volume reduction surgery or a lung transplant.
Now, however, Inova Fairfax Medical Center (IFMC) offers an innovative, minimally invasive treatment that can help patients with severe COPD, like emphysema, breathe easier: bronchoscopic lung volume reduction (BLVR).
Approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) a year ago in June 2018, this treatment was labeled a “breakthrough device” due to its potential to help some of the most severe cases.
According to Amit K. Mahajan, MD, the Medical Director of the Interventional Pulmonology program at IFMC, patients with COPD suffer from shortness of breath due to hyperinflation of their lungs. This hyperinflation causes their breathing muscle, the diaphragm, to move poorly, which results in shortness of breath and increased work to breathe.
BLVR helps to fix this problem. Physicians bronchoscopically insert small valves into the airways to block off the diseased parts of the lungs, taking pressure off of the diaphragm and allowing the healthier parts of the lungs to function more effectively.
“We can now offer patients with emphysema a long-lasting, sustainable treatment option that improves their shortness of breath,” Dr. Mahajan says. “We’re giving patients options they’ve never had before.”
The procedure is minimally invasive, meaning it doesn’t require any cutting or incisions, and the procedure itself only takes about an hour. IFMC is one of the very few hospitals to offer two valves: the Zephyr Valve and the Spiration Valve. Patients are evaluated to determine which valve is a better option for them. In fact, Inova Fairfax is one of the first hospitals in the Washington, D.C. area to offer BLVR, and one of only a few in the entire U.S.
Dr. Mahajan says Inova Fairfax was approached to offer these treatment options because its Interventional Pulmonology program is nationally known and has the clinical skills and staff support resources needed to effectively complete the procedure.
“This procedure is not offered at many institutions in the area,” Dr. Mahajan says. “The ability to do it at Inova Fairfax is really a testament to what the institution has been doing and how they have invested in not only excellent patient care, but also growing the Interventional Pulmonology program to allow for the most novel, up-to-date treatments available.”
Good candidates for this procedure meet the following criteria:
- Shortness of breath despite being on COPD medications
- Pulmonary function tests that demonstrate severe obstruction
- Significant hyperinflation
- Are able to complete a six-minute walk distance of greater than or equal to 100 meters
- A BMI less than 35
- Smoke-free for at least four months
- Clinical stability on prednisone