Mayo Clinic Offers New Hope to Patients With COPD

Wayne Peterson came to Mayo knowing it may be his last chance to find relief from COPD. What he didn't know was that he'd be the first in Minnesota to undergo a new, life changing lung procedure.

Wayne Peterson hadn't been able to breathe easily for years, and time was running out. In 2003, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), report ABC 6 News, KIMT 3 News and the Rochester Post-Bulletin. He tells the new outlets he was eventually put on oxygen and says he was given little hope by doctors in Texas, where he was living at the time, before coming to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. "They wanted to send me to hospice because they said they couldn't do any more," he tells ABC 6 News. "I came up here because I'm from here originally. I knew about Mayo Clinic. I thought if anyone can do anything, it's Mayo."

His instincts and his timing, ABC 6 News reports, were "perfect." The summer before his arrival, the Food and Drug Administration had given its seal of approval to the tiny valve used in a new procedure called endoscopic lung volume reduction. Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus is the first in its region to offer the treatment to patients with debilitating lung conditions tied to COPD, including emphysema. Last month Wayne — who tells KIMT he "wasn't a candidate for a lung volume reduction and I wasn't a candidate for transplant" — was the first patient to undergo the procedure in Minnesota.

The minimally invasive version of lung volume reduction employs the use of a small valve to help improve a patient's breathing. "These patients, they can't get rid of air," Mayo Clinic pulmonologist Eric Edell, M.D., tells ABC 6 News. "This technique, this technology is putting in a little valve. It's a one-way valve that lets air out of the lung but doesn't let it back in." In turn, and "by reducing the volume of air," Dr. Edell says, the diaphragm is able "to come up and work much more effectively."

In addition to Dr. Edell, ABC 6 News reports there are five other Mayo Clinic pulmonologists in Rochester, along with "two in Arizona and one in Florida" who are able to perform endoscopic lung volume reduction. Sebastian Fernandez-Bussy, M.D., an interventional pulmonologist at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, tells Mayo Clinic News Network that for some high-risk patients, this new procedure is a "preferred, safer option" than surgical lung volume reduction procedures. And while it's not a cure, Dr. Fernandez-Bussy tells the News Network it does improve "the patient's quality of life."  

Wayne is living and (more easily) breathing proof of that. Although it's only been a few weeks since he had the procedure, he says his quality of life is already better. "I haven't been able to get around like this in two years — over two years," Wayne tells the Post-Bulletin. "Without these valves, I wouldn't be here much longer. I don't think I would have made it through the year." 

Before the procedure, Wayne was "gasping for air every breath," he tells KIMT. "I feel like I got a second life here."

You can learn more about the procedure here, here, here and here. Then be sure to let us know what you think by sharing your comments below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.

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