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UAB Testing Alternative To Lung Reduction Surgery

Armen Hareyan's picture

Lung Reduction Surgery

UAB is testing a non-surgical alternative to a risky, yet effective surgical procedure for patients with emphysema. The new procedure, called bronchoscopic lung volume reduction, used a biologic agent rather than surgery to help patients with emphysema breathe better.

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When a healthy lung takes in a breath, the diaphragm, located below the lung, flattens, allowing the lung to expand and take in air. The diaphragm returns to its normal domed position as the lung contracts and exhales. Emphysema causes damage to lung tissue, trapping air in the damaged areas and preventing the lung from contracting. The lung becomes hyper-inflated, in turn compressing the diaphragm, leaving it in a permanently flattened position. This severely limits the amount of air an emphysema patient can draw with any one breath.

One current treatment, lung reduction surgery, involves surgical removal of the damaged portions of the lung, allowing the lung to contract again and the diaphragm to return to its normal domed shape. While effective for some patients, the mortality rate is about 10 percent. Emphysema patients are usually older and quite sick and any major surgery carries increased risk in that population.

Bronchoscopic lung volume reduction involves introducing a biologic solution, made by Aeris Therapeutics, Inc., via bronchoscope to the damaged areas of the lung. The solution is designed to cause the damaged areas to simply collapse. This accomplishes the same effect as surgical removal, allowing the lung to contract and the diaphragm to perform normally.

"This technique shows great promise in restoring lung function to emphysema patients without the high risk associated with surgery," said Mark Dransfield, M.D., UAB assistant professor of pulmonary, allergy and critical care medicine and principal investigator of the UAB trial.