Emphysema happens when the air sacs in the lungs become damaged. The air sacs, called alveoli, inflate and deflate as you breathe, exchanging the oxygen in the lungs. When the alveoli are damaged, it is difficult to breathe.

Overview and Symptoms

The most common cause of emphysema is smoking. Quitting smoking before emphysema develops can help to prevent it; quitting after emphysema has been diagnosed can help keep it from getting worse.

Symptoms include:

  • A chronic cough with mucus
  • Shortness of breath and breathlessness
  • Chest tightness and wheezing
COPD can be diagnosed in many ways.
  • Spirometry, a painless procedure during which you blow into a tube to measure how much air your lungs can hold, and how long it takes to breathe out.
  • Blood tests can help determine if the lungs are working properly.
  • Chest X-rays or CT scans allow doctors to examine detailed images of your lungs.
  • Additional tests may include an echocardiogram (which is an ultrasound test to check heart structure and function); cardiopulmonary exercise testing (a test on a bike or treadmill which can check how well the heart and lungs work together); or a sleep study (to check for COPD-related sleep disturbances).


Endobronchial Valves

Endobronchial valves are a minimally invasive treatment for people with severe COPD/emphysema. The valves are an implant designed to fit in the airways of the lungs. The valves are placed in selected airways during a bronchoscopy procedure (no incisions or cutting required) and are an alternative to the more invasive traditional lung volume reduction surgery.

If you have severe COPD/emphysema you may struggle to catch your breath while doing everyday tasks. This is because the damaged parts of your lungs have lost their ability to release trapped air and have become overinflated. Endobronchial Valves are tiny, one-way valves that allow the trapped air to be exhaled from the lungs and prevent more air from becoming trapped there.

Generally, candidates who should be evaluated for Valve Treatment are patients who:

  • Have a confirmed diagnosis of COPD or emphysema
  • Have to stop to catch their breath often, even with taking their medication as directed
  • Have reduced lung function

These are general criteria but the trained physicians at BIDMC can help determine if you are a candidate.

What Can Patients Expect?

Under anesthesia, the doctor will use a small tube with a camera called a bronchoscope inserted through the mouth to place small, umbrella-shaped, one-way valves inside the airways that lead to the most diseased part of the lung.

During the procedure your doctor will place on average of four valves in the airways. The number of valves placed will depend on the individual anatomy of the patient’s airways and physician discretion.

The valve stops inflow and allows escape of the trapped air in the diseased tissue so the healthier areas of the lung can breathe easier.

By deflating the overblown portion of the lung, the valve helps reduce the volume (size) of the diseased and over-inflated lung. Healthier lung tissue can expand and function more normally.

Patients may stay in the hospital for a minimum of 3 nights. Some patients who experience a complication may be required to stay longer.

After the procedure, you will continue to use the medicines that your doctor has prescribed for your condition.

Please email us if you are interested in more information about this FDA approved therapy and whether or not you are a candidate.

Chest Disease Center

The Chest Disease Center combines a team of highly skilled specialists with state-of-the-art facilities to provide multidisciplinary evaluation, treatment and care to patients who have benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) lung diseases.

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