Helping Diseased Lungs Breathe Easier

Unless we have a cold, most of us don’t think about breathing — we just do it.

But simply taking a breath can be a painful challenge for the millions of Americans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema, COPD’s more severe, progressive form.

Emphysema weakens and ruptures tiny air sacs in the lungs, creating larger air spaces. “When this occurs, old air becomes trapped in these damaged regions, making it hard to take deep breaths,” says Dr. Mark A. Vollenweider, interventional pulmonologist at Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC). “Patients have difficulty performing normal daily activities like bathing, getting dressed, walking or even eating without feeling breathless and tired.”

Opening the Lungs’ Airways

For these patients, a new pulmonary valve treatment recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may provide relief. Called the Zephyr®, this tiny endobronchial valve opens up the lung’s airways in a minimally invasive procedure that doesn’t require surgical cutting or incisions. During a short procedure that uses a small, flexible tube with a camera, Zephyr’s one-way valves are implanted to prevent airflow into the lungs’ diseased areas while allowing trapped air and fluids to escape.

“Breathing improves quickly post-treatment, allowing patients to experience increased lung function and quality of life,” says Dr. Vollenweider. “Prior to the Zephyr valve, emphysema management included medication, oxygen therapy, major surgery or lung transplant.”

How It Helps

Zephyr was granted Breakthrough Device designation by the FDA based on positive data from clinical trials, including those at Orlando Health ORMC.

One year after receiving Zephyr valve implants, patients in the trials were able to:

  • Breathe easier due to improved lung function
  • Increase exercise and energy levels
  • Experience less shortness of breath
  • Enjoy a better quality of life


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