Jan 25, 2023 A Breakthrough Treatment for COPD

couple hiking in the woods

Patients with severe breathing difficulties have a new treatment option.

There’s new hope for people with emphysema, a progressive, life-threatening lung condition and a severe form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emphysema has no cure, and patients live with severe shortness of breath that makes daily activities like walking or showering difficult.

Awani Kumar, MD
Awani Kumar, MD

Now Monmouth Medical Center (MMC) is the first hospital in the region to offer Zephyr Valves, a new lung valve treatment. Zephyr Valves received breakthrough device designation and were approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2018 to help patients with severe COPD and emphysema breathe easier without many of the risks associated with major surgery.

“Breathlessness is the most troubling symptom of severe emphysema—it can lead to depression, social isolation and a poor quality of life,” says Awani Kumar, MD, an internal medicine and pulmonary disease specialist at Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus (MMCSC). “Patients with severe COPD and emphysema often struggle with each breath despite medication and oxygen therapy. Finally having a minimally invasive procedure available in our region to help these patients is very exciting.”

Relieving Pressure

Emphysema triggers extreme shortness of breath as air becomes trapped in parts of the lung damaged by the disease. Air-filled damaged areas become larger—a condition called hyperinflation that puts pressure on the diaphragm and makes breathing difficult.

Richard Lazzaro, MD
Richard Lazzaro, MD

With treatment using Zephyr Valves, a physician places an average of four valves to occlude airways leading to the targeted, hyper-inflated part of the lung in a procedure that usually takes under an hour. The valves allow excess air to escape while blocking airflow into the treated area. Healthier parts of the lungs expand, relieving pressure, decreasing shortness of breath and allowing better breathing. Benefits have been shown to last at least one year after valve implantation.

“Prior to the introduction of this technology, the only treatment options for patients who failed nonsurgical options such as pulmonary rehab were highly invasive treatments including lung reduction and lung transplant surgeries,” says Richard Lazzaro, MD, Southern Region Chief of Thoracic Surgery, who treats patients at MMC and MMCSC and is teaming with MMC on the Zephyr program. “This breakthrough treatment is going to help us restore quality of life to so many residents in our region who struggle with breathing due to severe emphysema.”

Breathing Easier Through the Healthy Lives Program

If you have severe COPD/emphysema, help is available through the Healthy Lives Program at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC). The program is the newest addition to a full spectrum of cardiopulmonary services that bring together a multidisciplinary team of medical experts to monitor and manage conditions such as COPD, heart failure and pneumonia.

The patient-centered program is designed to prevent the need for emergency care or hospital readmissions. As part of the program, a nurse practitioner provides an initial assessment early in the disease process and continues working with patients and families to enhance their understanding of the condition and provide tools to manage it.

Elements of the Healthy Lives Program include cardiopulmonary rehabilitation; management of symptoms and risk factors such as high cholesterol or blood pressure; help complying with medication prescriptions; and access to services such as clinical nutrition, social services, ancillary tests and clinical trials.

To learn more about whether you’re a candidate for Zephyr Valves, call 732-923-6702.