Researchers at National Jewish Health are currently recruiting patients for a study to investigate whether poking holes in the lungs of emphysema patients can immediately help them breathe more easily.

The holes could relieve the hyperinflation of the lungs caused by emphysema, which would allow healthy parts of the lungs to more easily inflate and take in air.

“Advanced emphysema patients are often in poor physical condition, struggling with each breath,” says principal investigator Ali Musani, MD, FCCP. “If patients can breathe easier it is likely to improve their quality of life.”

During an airway bypass procedure, a Doppler probe is inserted through the bronchoscope to identify a site in the airway that is away from blood vessels. New openings are then created in the airway wall connecting the damaged lung tissue to the natural airway. The holes are then kept open by small Exhale® Drug-Eluting Stents, manufactured by Broncus Technologies, Inc.

“Airway bypass is groundbreaking because right now it is the only treatment being studied to help emphysema patients whose disease has destroyed tissue throughout the lung,” says Musani. “If successful, this minimally invasive procedure would help those who would not otherwise be considered for or benefit from lung volume reduction surgery.”