Pulmonologists at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois are on the cutting edge of a new procedure to treat patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The minimally invasive procedure is called bronchoscopic lung volume reduction (BLVR).
Illinois is the first state in the upper Midwest – and OSF Saint Francis is the first hospital in downstate Illinois – to offer and perform BLVR, which has been shown to improve breathing capacity by 20%.
When you have COPD, air sacs (alveoli) in your lung are damaged and no longer capable of moving fresh oxygen into your blood and expelling gases such as carbon dioxide.
Fresh oxygen becomes trapped in the diseased area of your lung.
The resulting hyperinflation puts pressure on the healthy area of the lung, reducing its capacity. Damaged alveoli cannot be repaired.
How BLVR Works
For decades, thoracic surgeons eliminated the hyperinflation and improved breathing capacity by removing part or all of the diseased lung.
Bronchoscopic lung volume reduction achieves the same result without surgery.
BLVR is performed much like a bronchoscopy, which is a test used to evaluate the health of your lungs and airways. A tube, called a bronchoscope, is threaded through your mouth, down your throat and into the lung.
In a BLVR, the pulmonologist uses the bronchoscope to place tiny, one-way valves in the diseased section of your lung.
The valves push out mucus, carbon dioxide and oxygen that are trapped there, then cap the area to prevent fresh oxygen from returning to the non-functioning section.
Benefits of BLVR
Traditional surgery would result in a scar and patient discomfort, require a lengthy hospital stay and carry the risk of infection.
By comparison, bronchoscopic lung volume reduction is a minimally invasive, 40-minute procedure.
A three-day hospital stay is required to monitor you in case your lung collapses.
A collapsed lung will increase the length of your stay, but it will not affect the ultimate improvement of your breathing capacity. About one in three patients experience a collapsed lung after the procedure.
After you leave the hospital, you will be able to resume reasonable physical activity almost immediately.
Requirements for BLVR
Not every COPD patient qualifies for bronchoscopic lung volume reduction.
Among the requirements, a patient must:
- Be 75 years old or younger
- Be non-smoking for at least four months
- Have a CT scan result that meets prescribed criteria
- Show a certain level of abnormality on a pulmonary function test
- Participate in a pulmonary rehabilitation program
Consult your pulmonologist to determine whether you qualify for bronchoscopic lung volume reduction.