A new minimally invasive method that involves the implantation of tiny coils into the lungs can improve exercise ability and quality of life for lung patients, scientists say.
Patients with emphysema, a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), experience an over-inflation of the lungs that limits their ability to breathe deeply, resulting from progressive destruction of the air sacs of their lungs and collapse of the airways, researchers said.
The coils are intended to improve the elastic properties of the lungs to prevent collapse of the airways, allowing patients to exhale more completely, they said.
“Some patients with advanced emphysema have few treatment options, and this trial significantly furthers our understanding of the potential role of minimally invasive lung volume reduction therapy as an option to improve symptoms,” said Frank Sciurba from University of Pittsburgh in the US.
The study included 315 patients recruited in the US and Europe between December 2012 and November 2015.
With over 75 per cent of study participants experiencing severe symptoms yet having a pattern of emphysema not allowing them to be candidates for surgery or experimental valve treatment, those patients had few therapeutic options short of lung transplantation, researchers said.
Participants were randomly assigned to either standard care, which included optimal inhaler medications and pulmonary rehabilitation, or to receive standard care plus bilateral coil insertion placed in the most severely affected lobe of each lung, they said.
Researchers measured how far participants could walk in six minutes, both at baseline and after 12 months of treatment. Patients who received coils showed a modest improvement in walking distance at 12 months, while the usual care group declined in function over the same time period.
After one-year follow-up, the coil group overall was able to walk 15 metres further than the usual care group in the allotted six minutes, researchers said.
As many as 40 per cent of the coil group was able to walk an additional 25 metres more, while only 27 per cent of the non-coil group achieved those walking gains, they said.
Forced expiration of air, the most common measure of lung function in emphysema patients, also improved in those receiving coils more so than in those who did not receive them, researchers said.
Patients receiving coils reported dramatic improvement in their quality of life. 32 per cent more patients in the coil group achieving a meaningful level of self-reported improvement over those in the non-coil group, they said.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.