PENSACOLA — A new, minimally invasive procedure to treat severe emphysema is now available to patients at Ascension Sacred Heart Pensacola. The hospital is the first and only one in the region currently offering the procedure, which utilizes an innovative device that is placed into targeted airways of the lung.

The umbrella-shaped device, the Spiration Valve System, improves breathing in patients with emphysema by redirecting air from diseased parts of the lung to healthier parts, enabling healthier tissue to expand and function more effectively.

Emphysema is a progressive form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The Food and Drug Administration approved the lung procedure as an alternative treatment option to more invasive options, such as surgery.

Dr. Frank Messina, a Pensacola pulmonologist who practices at Ascension Sacred Heart, has treated a dozen patients with the new procedure. He said his patients can breathe better and have more energy, which has made it easier for them to walk or climb stairs.

“I’ve seen patients make remarkable improvements in their breathing and quality of life,” Messina said. “Some of these patients are homebound by severe emphysema and this procedure can provide relief and better lung function in a select group of patients.”

The bronchoscopy procedure to insert the valve takes about 10 minutes. Bronchoscopy involves inserting a thin, lighted tube with a tiny camera through the mouth, down the trachea and into the airways of the lungs.

Patients being considered for the procedure are required to complete lung function studies, do a six-minute walk test and fill out a questionnaire about how their pulmonary disease affects the quality of their life. A complete history and physical exam is also required, and if all the appropriate criteria are met, patients will have a high-resolution CT scan of their lungs to determine if they would benefit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COPD affects more than 15 million people, including the 3.5 million who have emphysema, and is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Visit https://healthcare.ascension.org for more information on Ascension Sacred Heart.