17:00 PM

Tiny Valve Helps Ease Breathing for People with Severe COPD/Emphysema

Once a gregarious businessman with a busy social calendar, Cy Kennedy, of Wheaton, found himself stuck at home due to emphysema, a severe form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). After undergoing a new minimally-invasive procedure at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, Kennedy is looking forward to getting off the couch and living again.

The Zephyr ® Endobronchial Valve System is the first FDA-approved, minimally invasive procedure to help emphysema sufferers breathe easier without major surgery. The procedure is done during a bronchoscopy using a thin tube containing a light, camera and small tools inserted into the lungs through the nose or mouth.

Tiny valves are placed in the airways to block off the diseased parts of the lungs. The valves reduce hyperinflation, preventing air from being trapped in the diseased area of the lung and allowing healthier parts of the lung to take in more air. This results in patients being able to breathe easier.

“Patients who previously consistently felt short of breath can enjoy a significantly improved quality of life,” said Benjamin J. Seides, MD, director of Interventional Pulmonology at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “It is extremely gratifying to see patients who were previously oxygen dependent walk out of the hospital without supplemental oxygen.”

A week after undergoing the procedure, Kennedy says he took his best and deepest breath in ten years and walked the farthest, without stopping and without a rescue inhalation, in three years.

“I’ve been a couch potato for over two years and had to turn down so many social events because I didn’t have the energy to leave my house,” said Kennedy. “My mind is young and I want to get my body back.”

Kennedy is looking forward to getting back on the golf course, traveling and volunteering at a local nursing home.

“When you lose your social life, it isn’t good,” said Kennedy. “I needed to do something and I was thrilled I didn’t have to undergo surgery.”

According to the American Lung Association, more than 15 million Americans suffer from COPD and 4.7 million of those patients have emphysema, a severe form of COPD. This disease destroys the elastic fibers in the lungs that hold open the small airways that lead to the air sacs. This causes the airways to collapse on exhale, preventing air in the lungs from escaping. There are few treatment options for most patients with emphysema and there is no cure.

“Until now, the only other options for these patients were highly invasive treatments such as lung volume reduction surgery or lung transplantation,” said Dr. Seides. “These small valves have the potential to be a life changer for patients who struggle with each breath.”

The Zephyr procedure is available at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. For more information visit https://www.nm.org/conditions-and-care-areas/treatments/zephyr-valve.