TAMPA, FL (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- We depend on our lungs every day for every breath, but there are 12 million people in the United States who suffer from lung diseases ranging from bronchitis to emphysema, and many more. Medications and therapies can help those patients breathe easier and feel better, but what if you had those chronic problems, plus a hole in one of your lungs? For one man, new technology came to the rescue when nothing else could help.
Everywhere James Austin goes; his oxygen unit goes with him. After a lung injury, several surgeries, emphysema and heart problems left him with a deep hole in his back. The large hole, called a bronchopleural fistula, was the drain for a hole in his lung.
“ And It wasn’t very pleasant,” James told Ivanhoe.
“A bronchopleural fistula is nothing more than an air pipe that doesn’t heal after surgery, and you can imagine that’s not a simple problem to deal with,” Eric Sommers, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at Tampa General Hospital, explained
“Every two to four months, I had to be in the hospital, sometimes with chronic infection," James said
“I couldn’t sleep at night because I was afraid he wouldn’t wake up. It was pretty stressful,” Mary Austin, James’s wife said.
Austin was too sick for open surgery, but a new procedure allowed doctors to repair his lung from the inside.
“Oh yeah. I was ready,” James said.
The procedure involved introducing through a bronchoscope, a balloon catheter which provided information on the size and location of the hole. Then, a flexible, umbrella-shaped valve, about the size of a small spider, is deployed to close the leak.
“It is used to create a block to the segment of the lung where the air is leaking from,” Dr. Sommers said.
Three months after surgery, the hole is gone. One little valve made a big difference.
“It’s like night and day," James said.
Now, he and his wife are enjoying the simple pleasures of retirement and appreciating everysingle day.
“We do have a whole new life,” Mary said.
The device that helped James Austin, called the IBV Spiration valve, is still under FDA investigation. The FDA has approved it only for humanitarian use. Clinical trials are now underway to explore the possibility of using the device in patients with emphysema as well.