UofL taking part in study of new treatment for emphysema - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

UofL taking part in study of new treatment for emphysema

Posted: Updated: Sep 8, 2009 06:47 PM EDT
Pat Salinas Pat Salinas
Dr. Jinesh Mehta Dr. Jinesh Mehta

By Lori Lyle - bio | email
Posted By Charles Gazaway - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Emphysema, or COPD, is lung damage disease often caused by smoking. It's one of the top five killers in the US and in Kentucky where the number of smokers also ranks in the top five, the disease is quite prevalent.

A new device is helping patients breathe easier but it's not yet FDA approved. However, people in Kentuckiana can go ahead and get the device if they qualify for a study being conducted at the University of Louisville.

The device is called the IBV Valve, and UofL is one of about 30 study sites implanting the device for research. Among the patient participants is 69-year-old Pat Salinas, who had been suffering with the debilitating effects of the condition. 

"I had got to the point I could not walk out to my mailbox without stopping for several breaths along the way," Salinas said.

So she decided to try the IBV Valve instead of opting for a lung transplant.

UofL's principal investigator, pulmonologist Jinesh Mehta, explains how it works. "It's a valve that's a device that goes into your airways through a bronchoscope so there's no surgery involved." 

Dr. Mehta goes on to explain that tiny prongs on the device attach to the airway and a plastic umbrella directs the air the patient breaths. The device will only work on patients with disease limited to the upper lungs, about 50% of emphysema cases. Dr. Mehta says in these patients, "their upper lungs are taking up more than half their lung space, but not working." So the device will work to take the air way from the diseased portion of the lungs and give it to areas that are functioning.

The study is blinded until the patient reaches the 6-month mark. Pat didn't initially get the device, but after the 6 months she was offered the real thing. During a recent patient visit, Dr. Mehta asked her about any problems she'd had. Her answer: "None at all. I was not even sore after the procedure was done."

The IBV Valve is the same concept as a lung volume reduction surgery, something Pat and many patients want to avoid.

"You go in, you cut off the diseased lung and the patient is left with normal lung. But that's major surgery, you have to open the chest," Dr. Mehta said.

Implanting the IBV Valve only requires and overnight hospital stay.

Now six months after the implant Pat is feeling a big difference. She said she can walk further and is able to plant flowers. Although it is not a miracle cure, Pat says it has improved her lifestyle.

Pat says she knows one patient who was completely confined to his house, but after receiving the valve was able to take an ocean cruise. Dr. Mehta says all his patients are reporting significant benefits, but he did however have to remove one valve from a patient after an infection developed.

The study is open to men and women ages 40 to 74 that have been diagnosed with predominantly upper lobe emphysema and shortness of breath with exertion. Eligible patients must be able to participate in pulmonary function and standardized exercise tests, not smoked for four months and be willing to not smoke during the trial.

For more information contact, Heidi Wilson, research coordinator at
(502) 852-1359 or by email: heidi.wilson@louisville.edu.

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