Banner University Medicine Lung Institute is the first in Arizona and second in the U.S. to offer a new lung valve treatment for patients with severe COPD or emphysema. Recently approved by the FDA under their “Breakthrough Devices” designation, the Zephyr® Endobronchial Valve system is a major advancement in treatment because it is the first minimally invasive procedure to help emphysema sufferers breathe easier without major surgery.

Emphysema is a progressive and life-threatening lung disease, and a severe form of COPD (chronic pulmonary obstructive disease). There is no cure and patients live with severe shortness of breath that keeps them from doing simple daily activities like walking, or taking a shower, without pausing to catch their breath or resting. This extreme shortness of breath is caused when air becomes trapped in parts of the lung that are damaged by the disease. The lungs then get larger putting pressure on the healthy parts of the lungs and diaphragm.

“Emphysema patients struggle to breathe despite medication therapy and until now the only options for relief were highly invasive treatments including lung surgeries,” states Dr. Richard Sue, faculty physician at the Banner University Medicine Lung Institute. “Being able to offer this minimally invasive procedure has the potential to improve the quality of life for many emphysema sufferers in Arizona and beyond.”

During this short 30 to 60-minute procedure, a physician places three to five tiny valves in the airways to block off the damage areas of the lungs so air no longer gets trapped there. This allows the healthier parts of the lungs to expand and relieves the pressure on the diaphragm, which decreases shortness of breath and makes breathing easier. Before this treatment the only option for these patients were highly invasive treatments such as lung volume reduction surgery or lung transplantation. Patients have shared that after the procedure they have been able to walk farther and take deeper breaths.

“I felt immediate relief from this procedure,” explains Lynn Tafoya from Coolidge, Ariz. who had the valve procedure performed in mid-September. “I have two small kids at home and everyday tasks like getting them to school or cooking dinner had become so difficult because of my emphysema. Since the treatment I am breathing so much better and looking forward to spending time with my family with ease. I am so grateful I had this procedure. I feel like a normal person again!”