Treatment review

Zephyr Valve Treatment Review: Uses, Benefits, and Risks

A Zephyr Endobronchial Valve System, or Zephyr Valve, is a device doctors use to treat severe cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema. They can improve an individual’s breathing and quality of life by increasing airflow to healthy parts of the lungs.

This article goes into more detail about the Zephyr Valve treatment, the procedure, who it is suitable for, and the risks and benefits. It also explores what to expect after the procedure and alternative options for those who may not be suitable candidates for the technique.

According to COPD Foundation, Zephyr valves are minimally invasive devices that may benefit people with severe emphysema. the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved their use in 2018.

When a person breathes, air passes through the pharynx and larynx and into the lungs. However, in severe cases of emphysema, individuals suffer from hyperinflation, as air is trapped in the lungs. This prevents fresh air from entering the lungs and causes shortness of breath.

A Zephyr valve can help block damaged parts of the lungs that contribute to hyperinflation. It works the same way as a train line system.

It redirects airflow to healthy parts of the lungs and allows trapped air and fluids to escape when a person exhales. This reduces the pressure on the diaphragm and improves the breathing of the individual.

Additionally, this device also allows healthy parts of the lungs to expand and expand, which helps people feel capable of exercising and other daily activities.

People receiving a Zephyr valve will undergo a simple installation procedure that does not involve any cuts or incisions. This makes it an alternative treatment to more invasive options, such as lung transplants.

The Zephyr Valve treatment is a Once, a hospital procedure where a specialist inserts the valves into the airways during a bronchoscopy.

If a doctor considers a person a potential candidate for Zephyr valves, they will issue a reference to a pulmonologist. Then the specialist performs lung function tests to determine if the treatment is suitable for the individual.

During the procedure

For a Zephyr Valve procedure, a surgeon:

  • give the patient a sleeping pill to make the procedure comfortable and painless
  • insert a flexible tube with a tiny fiber optic camera or bronchoscope into the lungs through the nose or mouth
  • place the Zephyr valves in the airways using the bronchoscope

The number of valves used by pulmonologists depends on the different areas of the lung that are blocked and contain trapped air, but it is usually around four.

The whole procedure usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes.

At the end of the procedure, the specialist removes the bronchoscope and watches the individual recover.

After the procedure

the FDA states that the individual may need to stay in the hospital for 3-5 days to recover from the operation. The doctor monitors their progress to minimize any risks that may arise.

They may also prescribe antibiotics or other medications that may lessen side effects.

If the person develops no side effects as a result of the procedure, the hospital provides them with a wallet-sized patient ID card, indicating that they have the Zephyr implants in their lungs.

It is crucial that individuals keep this card with them at all times and present it whenever they need medical attention, emergencies or MRI scans.

Additionally, the healthcare team may recommend that the person continue taking prescription medications, as this may help treat severe emphysema and minimize the risk of infection.

Thereafter, the person may need to attend follow-up appointments with their doctor to discuss their progress.

The Zephyr Valve treatment is suitable for people with severe emphysema.

Disease symptoms include:

However, some people cannot undergo the Zephyr Valve procedure. Those include those who:

  • have an active lung infection
  • are allergic to nitinol, nickel, titanium, or silicone
  • cannot undergo a bronchoscopy procedure
  • have passages in their lungs that bypass unaffected airways

A person opting for the Zephyr procedure must also quit smoking at least 4 months before receiving the treatment.

People who undergo Zephyr Valve treatment can experience several benefits. These include:

  • Shortness of breath reduced: A study 2020 looked at the effects of Zephyr valves in people with dyspnea or shortness of breath. People with severe emphysema reported improvements in breathlessness over 12 months.
  • Increased exercise capacity: A 2018 study found that 54.9% of participants receiving Zephyr Valve treatment successfully returned to work, hobbies and physical activities that previously affected them.
  • Easier long-term breathing: A 2018 report found that people with valve implants in their airways to treat emphysema had better lung function and exercise capacity. This allows for easier long-term breathing.
  • Improved quality of life: Individuals with Zephyr Valves Reported improved overall quality of life in four separate randomized controlled clinical trials.

There are risks and side effects of Zephyr Valve treatments to consider. These are more common for the first 45 days after the procedure.

Pneumothorax

Pneumothorax occurs when there is an air leak or tear in the lungs, usually within the first 45 days after surgery.

A randomized controlled study found that 26.6% of study participants developed pneumothorax, the most common serious adverse event during the treatment period.

Another study found that 23.3% of the 43 participants had a pneumothorax during the treatment period.

Treatment for pneumothorax depends on the severity. If there is a small air leak, the individual needs oxygen treatment and rest. In more severe cases, a doctor may need to operate on the patient using one of the following methods:

  • Needle decompression: The surgeon places a hollow needle in the chest. They attach a syringe to the needle to extract air from the space between the lungs and the chest.
  • Tubal thoracostomy: A surgeon makes an incision in the chest and places a tube between the lungs and the chest wall to remove excess fluid, blood, or air.

Complex cases of pneumothorax may require remove all valves.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection that causes the air sacs in the lungs to become inflamed, filling them with fluid or pus.

Symptoms include:

  • cough, possibly with mucus
  • fever
  • sharp chest pain that gets worse with deep breathing or coughing.

The risk of pneumonia varies. One study reported a 4.7% risk from the state of the day of the Zephyr Valve procedure to 45 days later. Additionally, 9% of study participants reported pneumonia as an adverse event from 45 days after treatment through 12 months follow-up.

If there is a risk or suspicion of pneumonia, a doctor will perform several tests to confirm the diagnosis. These may include blood tests, X-ray, bronchoscopy, or CT scan.

Treatment for pneumonia includes rest and increased fluid intake, along with antibiotic, antiviral, or antifungal medications.

Worsening of emphysema or COPD

In the pneumothorax study above, 19.5% of study participants experienced worsening of COPD symptoms within the first 45 days of the procedure, compared to 11.3% of the control group who received only treatment standard.

At the 12-month visit date, 56.6% of participants had an increase in COPD or emphysema, compared to 56.5% of the control group.

However, there is little research describing why the Zephyr Valve may be effective in treating emphysema in some people, but may make symptoms worse in others.

Increased shortness of breath

In one study, 16.4% of participants reported dyspnea within 45 days of the procedure.

Another one to study reported that 2.3% of 93 participants experienced increased dyspnea within 30 days of treatment with Zephyr Valve.

Death

Reported impact research a dead person occurred 12 months after valve implantation.

This study reported 3.1% died within 45 days of the procedure and one other participant died at the 12-month follow-up visit.

Since there is no cure for emphysema to date, people with symptoms of this disease can consider different treatments with a doctor.

Alternative treatments include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Avoiding or quitting smoking and second-hand smoke can reduce the risk of respiratory diseases. It could also prevent existing conditions from getting worse.
  • Oxygen therapy: This can help increase the amount of oxygen in the lungs and blood flow.
  • Medications prescribed: Medications, such as bronchodilators, in the form of inhalers can relax the muscles around the airways, allowing individuals to breathe more easily.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation: A program for people with chronic respiratory problems – this may include psychological counselling, exercise and nutritional support.
  • Operation: For severe emphysema symptoms that do not improve with medication and rehabilitation, a doctor or surgeon may recommend surgery. Procedures include removal of damaged lung tissue, removal of air spaces that conflict with breathing, or lung transplants. Lung volume reduction surgery and lung transplantation are additional alternatives for people who might not be suitable candidates for the Zephyr Valve approach.

Zephyr valves can help people with severe emphysema or COPD.

The procedure is non-invasive and allows airflow to reach healthy parts of the lungs, preventing damaged parts from colliding with incoming air.

The technique can improve a person’s breathing, as healthy parts of the lungs can expand, while blocked air or fluids are released over time. Valve therapy reduces shortness of breath, allowing the individual to lead a more active lifestyle.

However, doctors may recommend other treatment options for those who cannot receive Zephyr Valve treatment, including medications and pulmonary rehabilitation.