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New Hope for Emphysema Patients: Laser-Focused Steam Treatment For the Lungs

jan2020image001A quick blast of steam could give countless individuals who battle debilitating breathlessness a new lease of life. It’s a new procedure designed to help people with severe emphysema. According to reports, in as little as 15 minutes, doctors can treat damaged tissue in the lungs with a burst of heated water vapor, which scars the tissue.

As the scarred tissue shrinks over several days, space in the lungs is freed up, making it easier to breathe. Within weeks, the results suggest that patients are able to do more physically than they have in years.

The steam treatment was developed in the US. The procedure aims to improve the lives of patients with severe emphysema. The treatment is not a complete cure, but may relieve COPD symptoms, specifically helping sufferers walk further independently.

COPD damage reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the bloodstream, causing breathlessness, coughing and fatigue. Eventually, healthy lung air sacs break apart and merge, causing gaps in the lungs. This leads to air getting trapped and causing the lungs to over-inflate, causing discomfort and making it even harder to breathe. with less room for fresh oxygen to enter the lungs.

The new treatment is called Bronchoscopic Thermal Vapour Ablation, or BTVA. It can target very specific areas and only requires moderate sedation.

After the treatment, most patients are kept in hospital for only one night and some are even well enough to go home the same day. The scar tissues shrinkage takes about four weeks from the time of the procedure. Until then, symptoms may worsen.

During the procedure, a tube containing a camera – a bronchoscope – is fed through the mouth to the lungs and to the worst affected area which needs to be treated. A balloon is passed through the tube to its tip, where it is inflated to block the airway. The obstruction means the steam reaches the targeted area only.

A dose of steam is then sprayed through a separate channel in the tube for between three and 10 seconds. After 20 seconds, the balloon is removed, and the airways are assessed. At most, two parts of the lungs will be treated at one time to avoid the risk of severe inflammation, which can cause further problems. The procedure can be repeated a few months later, to treat any additional parts of the lung.

The procedure is still in the research and testing phase, so may not be widely available, but shows promise as a possible treatment of COPD in some patients. To learn more, visit the Daily Mail.