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New treatment for people with COPD, emphysema at Penn Medicine

New treatment for people with COPD, emphysema at Penn Medicine
New treatment for people with COPD, emphysema at Penn Medicine 02:23

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A new treatment option for people with COPD or emphysema could be an alternative to lung surgery and transplant. 

People with COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, struggle to breathe and often have to rely on inhalers or oxygen and some need more invasive surgeries. 

There's now a more patient-friendly option. 

Brian Murphy is back to playing the piano and relieved to have his life back. 

"I still have dreams and aspirations that I can actually pursue instead of giving things up," Murphy said. 

For years, the musician suffered from crippling COPD. It's a lung inflammation that makes breathing difficult.

"It was horrible, I was practically bedridden," Murphy said. 

He was too sick for a lung transplant, so his doctors at Penn Medicine recommended lung valves, tiny devices that deliver big benefits. 

"The idea of these valves is that they're minimally invasive quick recovery and doesn't require any kind of cutting," Dr. Kevin Ma said, "and to achieve a lot of the same potential benefits which is the valves go in, you artificially deflate the worst parts of the lung rather than physically removing it." 

Dr. Ma is with Penn Medicine. He says the valve redirects airflow in the lung away from damaged areas to improve breathing. 

"We placed valves in the bottom part of the left lung, this entire area shrinks down," Ma said. 

New treatment option for people with COPD, emphysema at Penn Medicine

The dark area seen in an X-ray indicates damaged lung tissue. On the right after the valves were placed you can see the lung is white, which is normal. 

"It's a very exciting kind of new development," Ma said.  

For Brian, he felt the difference right after the procedure. 

"When I woke up I could immediately tell there had been an improvement. It was striking, really striking," Murphy said. 

Now, he's back to enjoying his music and grandchildren. 

"It's so amazing," Murphy said, "completely turned my life around. I'm, the simple things that everybody takes, that I certainly used to take for granted that I lost.

Penn Doctors say the lung valves are only appropriate for certain patients. 

Click here for more information. 

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