Almost 15.7 million people in the U.S. report they've been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the most common forms of COPD is emphysema. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, cough, mucus production and wheezing.
But a minimally invasive procedure is helping many patients breathe easier, says Dr. Sebastian Fernandez-Bussy, a Mayo Clinic pulmonary and critical care physician.
This procedure, which is called "endoscopic lung volume reduction," can improve symptoms of emphysema for people who no longer respond to medical treatment.
"During the procedure, the patient is under anesthesia, and we go down with a small scope through the mouth to the lungs," says Dr. Fernandez-Bussy.
Then surgeons place one-way valves in the lungs that allow air to escape that has entered the lungs through holes that develop during emphysema.
"So with time, that part of the lung with the most emphysema will shrink, and that will allow the rest of the lung with less emphysema to have more space to expand and function. And the people will achieve better breathing and a better quality of life," says Dr. Fernandez-Bussy.
The procedure is not a cure, but it can help improve symptoms.
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