New procedure offering unique way to help patients with chronic lung problems

Doctors at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin have a new tool: Bronchoscopic Lung Volume Reduction or BLVR.
BLVR Procedure.jpeg
Posted at 9:54 AM, Nov 17, 2023

MILWAUKEE — For patients with chronic lung conditions like emphysema, trying to manage it can be tough — with a string of medications, inhalers, and surgery and little to no relief.

“I’ve had patients who have been sleeping on their couch, down in the living room for a couple of years because they get too short of breath going upstairs,” said Jonathan Kurman, MD, Lung Specialist, Froedtert & MCW

Now, doctors at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin have a new tool: Bronchoscopic Lung Volume Reduction or BLVR.

“We do that by placing little tiny valves that are about the size of a fingernail into the airways within the lungs while you're asleep,” said Dr. Kurman.

The whole procedure only takes about 45 minutes and patients can go home less than a week later.

“The fact that we can get patients having some dramatic improvement in their breathing, where they can be more active, more available to their family and being able to overall just do more things in their life and be more independent because of this procedure, I have found that it has been such a huge impact in their lives,” said Elise Jondall, Nurse Practitioner, Froedtert & MCW.

This new procedure is already changing the lives of people in our area, like Valerie Langston.

Valerie was a smoker for more than 40 years but said she felt great until about a decade ago.

“I could do anything, jump high, run fast. I'm an athlete, you could say. I played softball all the way up until 2013,” said Langston.

Soon after, the 65-year-old Milwaukee woman says her health went downhill fast.

“It's real scary. I live alone. I remember my first visit to the hospital, losing my breath, and I held on to that nurse’s hand for dear life,” said Langston.

Tests confirmed Valerie had COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

She says she felt like giving up until her son told her she would soon be a grandmother.

“During that time, I was able to finally decide that for my grandson, I wanted to be here a little longer,” said Langston.

Now, about a year since her treatment, Valerie says she’s nearly back to her old self, dancing and exercising, just with a little extra rest in between.

“30 some odd years ago, nothing like this was happening. Not even the breathing medicine was happening back then. So yeah, I’m into science. (laughs) I appreciate the science,” said Langston.

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