Tiny valve improves lung function

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It was a collapsed lung that finally forced Pat Maloney to quit smoking after 50 years.

Pat Maloney and Joel Dunning with Pulmonx valve

Little did she know, it would also lead to her becoming the first patient at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to benefit from a new valve treatment to improve lung function.

Pat, 71, has suffered for years with emphysema – a long-term, progressive disease of the lungs that primarily causes shortness of breath. Then one day she struggled to get out of bed at all because her lung had collapsed.

While the collapsed lung was quickly re-inflated, the admission to hospital brought Pat under the watchful eyes of a team of respiratory and cardiothoracic specialists at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough. The experts identified her as the perfect candidate to benefit from a new artificial valve treatment.

Prior to this procedure, Pat’s advanced emphysema had left her reliant on home oxygen, even simple tasks such as showering or going to the shop had left her struggling for breath.

But the retired library assistant from Normanby says she is now feeling “marvellous” after having four tiny Pulmonx valves inserted into her lung. The procedure was carried out in just 20 minutes using a flexible tube (catheter) to insert the valves via her airways.

Pat holds up the tiny Pulmonx valve“Before the procedure I was on oxygen, I could not shower or dress – trivial things I could not do,” said Pat. “Now I can potter in the garden or can go shopping, and I’m not on the oxygen as much as I was.”

Respiratory consultant Ramamurthy Sathyamurthy and cardiothoracic consultant Joel Dunning were the first to carry out the minimally invasive procedure at James Cook.

Mr Dunning explained that traditionally emphysema could be treated with an operation to remove part of the damaged lung but in Pat’s case this was thought to be too high risk.

He said: “The Pulmonx valve provides a new treatment option which avoids the need for surgery. The one-way valve prevents airflow into the diseased part of the lung, allowing healthier regions to expand and function more efficiently.

“There are around 3,000 people in the region on home oxygen, only half have seen a specialist. But this new treatment improves lung function, exercise capacity and quality of life.”