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Take a deep breath: UVA health system opens clinical trial of emphysema treatment


Doctors at the University of Virginia Health System have opened a new clinical trial to try and help people with emphysema breathe better. The study will test the safety and effectiveness of a bronchoscopic valve, an experimental device designed to channel air to healthier portions of the lung. The idea is to improve a patient’s physical functioning, tolerance for exercise and general quality of life.

The study device works by limiting airflow to a selected portion of the lung in patients with emphysema. The bronchoscopic valve is implanted without an incision, hopefully providing an alternative to lung volume reduction surgery. The device is a small valve shaped like an umbrella. It’s placed in the bronchial tree to prevent air from entering targeted sections of the lung. Doctors successfully implanted the device in UVa’s first patient Dec. 2, the first time the device has been used in a clinical trial in the Southeast.

“UVa was selected to participate in this important study because of our extensive experience in treating patients with emphysema,” said Dr. Jonathon Truwit, professor of internal medicine and head of pulmonary and critical care medicine at UVa. “This is a large patient population with a need for new treatment options. As one of just twenty medical centers in the world participating in the trial, we are pleased to be involved in this innovative study.”

Lung disease is a growing health problem in the U.S. and around the world. According to the American Lung Association (ALA), 110,000 Americans die each year from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, the fourth leading cause of death by disease in the U.S. Emphysema is the most serious form of this disease and is usually caused by cigarette smoking. According to the ALA, about three million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema in recent years.

This lung disease begins with the destruction of air sacs called alveoli where oxygen from the air is exchanged for carbon dioxide in the blood. As these air sacs are destroyed, the lungs are able to transfer less and less oxygen to the bloodstream, causing shortness of breath. The lungs also lose their elasticity, which is important to keep airways open. Emphysema doesn’t develop suddenly. Years of exposure to the irritation of cigarette smoke usually precede its development.

The trial is sponsored by the developer of the valve, Spiration, Inc. For more information about this study, contact Peggie Donowitz at UVa at (434) 982-1801 or by email at

Bob Beard | EurekAlert!
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