Last week the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) announced its use of the AeriSeal system in a non-surgical lung volume reduction procedure on a 55-year-old emphysema patient.

The system, which was used as part of an investigational therapy for emphysema, uses a minimally invasive approach to inject a proprietary polymer into diseased areas of the patient’s lungs. Within about 30 minutes of injection, the foam hardens to a rubbery consistency, blocking off the holes in the air sacs and sealing the damaged regions of lung. Over the course of several months, the air sacs deflate, and the lung shrinks in size, clearing the way for the diaphragm to return to normal function.

“We don’t yet know the balance of risks and benefits for this procedure as well as we do for surgery,” said Mark Dransfield, MD, associate professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine and principal investigator in the AeriSeal trial. “Certainly the hope is the risk will be far lower, and the preliminary data from Europe indicates that that is true. The risk of major cardio- or pulmonary complications is quite low. I think having a safer option that is as effective or almost as effective as surgery will greatly improve our ability to take care of these folks.”