Parkview Health Logo

A new treatment option for severe emphysema

Last Modified: August 28, 2021

Diseases & Disorders, Family Medicine

BLVR treatment

This post was written by Abhishek Biswas, MD, FACP, PPG – Pulmonology.

Bronchoscopic lung volume reduction (BLVR) is a new non-surgical mode of treatment for severe emphysema, a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) where the lung becomes abnormally hyperexpanded. This results in a lung that is much larger in volume compared to its original size. Consequently, this hyperinflated lung does not function properly or as well as normal lung tissue.

How it works

With emphysema, there are parts of the lung that are more diseased than others. The minimally invasive BLVR procedure relies on the identification of such areas. Once identified, small valves, about 5-9 mm, get placed into the preselected spots of the lung, leading to the deflation of any abnormal hyperinflated areas. This innovative technology diminishes lung volume and helps improve lung function and respiratory mechanics, resulting in improved breathing and an enhanced quality of life.

Long-term benefits

Patients who benefit from the BLVR procedure show an improvement in lung function over time, starting within weeks and lasting years. They have demonstrated a significant improvement in their six-minute walk distance, which is indicative of an improvement in their day-to-day functioning. However, it’s important to remember that not everyone undergoing this procedure will experience the same benefits.

Comparison to other modalities

BLVR should not replace inhaler medications, oxygen therapy or pulmonary rehab. And, while it is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved treatment option, it’s primarily utilized for people who continue to struggle with their breathing despite being on maximal therapy. Often, there is no alternate option for patients getting evaluated for the procedure.

Ideal candidates 

Unfortunately, not everyone is a candidate or will benefit from BLVR. For this reason, every prospective patient must undergo a rigorous evaluation process to assess their potential benefit from the technology. The evaluation process takes a few weeks to complete and involves several steps such as obtaining a lung function test, a CT scan of your chest, an echocardiogram and more. And, while BLVR aims to help patients with disabling shortness of breath, and a below-par quality of life, despite maximal pharmacologic treatment for emphysema, there are several things to consider before reaching an eligible status. For starters, a patient considering the procedure must quit smoking, participate in pulmonary rehab and continue to use medications as prescribed. Additionally, all patients must understand the risks associated with this procedure.

Final thoughts

If you have emphysema and are curious about BLVR, please speak with your primary care provider or lung doctor about this new form of treatment. We will be happy to see you at Parkview Physicians Group - Pulmonary and Critical Care.

Related Blog Posts

View all posts