Published On: Sun, Aug 14th, 2022

Treatment for Severe COPD Helping Some Patients Breathe Better

(StatePoint) More than 3 million Americans live with severe emphysema, a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that makes breathing difficult. While there’s no cure, recent advances in treatments are helping some patients breathe better for which we also recommend to get this breathwork certification.

The American Lung Association’s Treating Severe COPD Educational Campaign encourages people with severe emphysema to speak to their healthcare provider about their options, which may include endobronchial valve (EBV) treatment. As part of the campaign, they’re sharing these important facts:

What is EBV treatment? When someone has emphysema, their lungs stop working effectively and air gets trapped inside their lungs instead of leaving when they exhale. With no room for fresh, oxygenated air, the person becomes short of breath. The trapped air causes that section of the lung to enlarge, putting pressure on the healthier parts of the lung and diaphragm. This is called hyperinflation. EBV treatment is a safe, FDA-approved interventional therapy in which small, removable, one-way valves are implanted in strategic areas. They allow air to be breathed out of that area of the lung, preventing air-trapping that can result in shortness of breath.

When should I consider EBV? As emphysema progresses, some medications that worked well may stop controlling symptoms. If neither medication nor oxygen is controlling symptoms well, major surgery like lung volume reduction or a lung transplant had traditionally been the next and last resort. With some individuals, EBV can fill the treatment gap between medication and surgery.

You may be a candidate if you have advanced emphysema and are highly symptomatic despite receiving optimal medical treatment. You also need to be non-smoking or willing to quit. If you’re currently smoking, the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program can help you quit.

What are EBV’s benefits? While recovery will depend on factors like overall health and the severity of COPD, the goal of EBV is to breathe easier without the necessary recovery from a surgical treatment. EBV treatment may improve lung function, increase your exercise capacity, and improve your quality of life. Most patients who’ve received the treatment report feeling better and say they’re now able to be more active.

Complications of the EBV treatment can include but are not limited to pneumothorax, worsening of COPD symptoms, hemoptysis, pneumonia, dyspnea and, in rare cases, death. Talk with your physician about other contraindications, warnings, precautions, and adverse events. Only a trained physician can decide whether you’re an appropriate candidate for EBV treatment.

“Before my treatment, I would take a few steps and then wait to catch my breath. Now, every day I find I can do something I couldn’t before,” says Susan Scott, an Ohio resident who was diagnosed with COPD years ago and was experiencing worsening symptoms before getting the procedure. “My boyfriend and I hope to travel. I have a son in California and we’re going to go visit him soon. Being able to do that is everything to me. I also can’t wait to start cooking and leash training my dog.”

What to ask your healthcare provider. Because EBV treatments are relatively new, not all healthcare providers are knowledgeable about the procedure. Speak with your provider to see if it’s right for you. Keep in mind that you may have to advocate for yourself or seek a second opinion.

“My pulmonary clinic didn’t have a lot of information regarding EBVs. If my doctor knew more about it, she might have recommended it to me. I was the one who kept pushing it,” says Scott.

If you have emphysema or severe COPD, you can find resources as well as learn more about EBV by visiting lung.org/copd.

Take time to learn about treatment options. Doing so is for many, the first step to breathing easier.

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