December 19, 2017
Many patients around the world are breathing more comfortably with the help of a tiny nickel-containing valve implant that works much like those easy-squeeze ketchup bottle tops.
The Zephyr valve is made of a collapsible Nitinol (UNS N01555) wire outer ‘basket’ —not unlike a stent used in heart surgery—which surrounds the silicone inner valve. The flexible material is constructed in such a way as to form a one-way valve, that helps a patient exhale more efficiently.
It’s led to a simpler, less damaging, minimally invasive procedure that helps ease the debilitating breathlessness that leaves those with chronic lung conditions unable to take a few steps without gasping for air.
Controlled air flow and improved breathing
Manufacturer PulmonX, describes the Zephyr Endobronchial Valve as an endoscopic lung volume reduction therapy that significantly improves lung function, exercise capacity and quality of life.
The valve, placed deep in the tiny branches within the lungs known as bronchioles, allows air to flow out, exhaling in one direction only. This is what makes it similar to the way rubber tops of ketchup bottles work.
In a 45 minute procedure, the surgeon uses a thin flexible tube called a bronchoscope to implant the valve, threading it into the lungs via the mouth and windpipe, while the patient is either under anaesthetic or sedation. Once in the correct position, the wire basket expands, holding the device in place.
This effectively cuts off the diseased areas of the lungs. Despite the volume of the lungs being smaller, the valve actually improves breathing because air flows through the healthy areas of the organ only. In essence, it ensures the remaining healthy regions function more efficiently.
Improved quality of life
PulmonX notes that the Zephyr Valve has the most clinical evidence of any endoscopic lung volume reduction therapy, supported by four published randomised controlled clinical trials, two more underway, and extensive scientific research into safety and efficacy. Multiple clinical trials have demonstrated its benefits and 12,000 patients have been treated worldwide.
Dr Samuel Kemp, consultant respiratory physician at the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, in the UK, who led one recent study using the Zephyr, says: “After the procedure, patients can breathe more easily, walk further, dress themselves and generally have a better quality of life.”
“Being breathless is miserable and people become afraid to exercise. But this gives them back their confidence and their quality of life without surgery, and may be suitable for many more patients with emphysema.”