Patients in the Valley with emphysema might soon be breathing a little easier thanks to a new airway bypass study called the Exhale Airways Stents for Emphysema (EASE) trial. The trial principal is Dr. Karl Van Gundy aided by investigators Drs. Michael Peterson, Jose Joseph, Timothy Evans and Kathryn Bilello - all pulmonologists at UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program. The study is a multi-center, international trial that is designed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of this new and innovative procedure. There are only two other sites administering the trial in California besides UCSF Fresno - UC Davis Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
A form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema is a progressive lung disease that keeps air trapped inside the lungs (not allowing it to escape) resulting in shortness of breath. Since the disease develops gradually over many years, symptoms of emphysema might not occur until irreversible damage has already happened.
"COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and a significant cause of disability in the world," said Dr. Peterson, who also is chief of medicine at UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program. "Very few new treatments have become available for this disease."
The EASE trial procedure creates new pathways in the walls of the natural airways that connect the damaged inner lung tissue and the larger natural air passages. Dr. Peterson said these new passageways may provide a pathway for the trapped air in the inner lung to escape by "bypassing" the collapsing small airways. These new pathways are created using a special needle through a bronchoscope.
After each new passage is made, a small drug-eluting stent (a wire mesh similar to what is used to keep coronary arteries open in heart disease) is implanted and provides support to keep the passageway open. Dr. Peterson said opening the airway allows the trapped air to escape the lungs, thereby hopefully relieving one of the symptoms of emphysema - shortness of breath.
"A previous large trial (NETT) demonstrated that some patients with emphysema are helped by surgery to reduce the volume of air in the chest. However, this is a complicated and potentially dangerous surgical procedure. The EASE trial is designed to determine if a minimally-invasive approach to reducing lung volume could benefit patients with severe COPD," Dr. Peterson said.
Both Drs. Peterson and Van Gundy are excited to offer this research approach soon to patients in the Central Valley.
"We are currently enrolling patients in this trial and we will continue to enroll patients for next year," Dr. Van Gundy said. To find out more about the study you can go online www.easetrialus.com