The treatment: Airway bypass
New Treatments for COPD: Page 5
What's new: Bronchoscopic surgery
When COPD damages and weakens the walls of the air sacs in the lungs, the result is that the small airways in between collapse when patients exhale. Air then becomes trapped in the lungs, which don't fully empty and, over time, become overexpanded.
To fix this, researchers are experimenting with using a bronchoscope-guided needle to create tiny holes through the airway walls. Miniature tubes called stents are then inserted to connect the smaller, collapsed airways with the healthier, bigger airways.
Why it's encouraging: In a small study, those who underwent the procedure found that their breathing eased considerably. A large-scale double-blind placebo-controlled study called EASE (short for Exhale Airway Stents for Emphysema) is underway at numerous medical centers to make sure that the treatment works and that side effects such as scarring aren't a serious problem.
What to watch for: In the preliminary study, two participants had minor bleeding from the procedure, but there were no major side effects reported.