Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, often called COPD, is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Local 4's Doctor Frank McGeorge is taking a closer look at a relatively new procedure that's helping patients breathe easier without invasive surgery.
In certain types of advanced COPD the alveoli, the microscopic air sac's that we rely on to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs, become damaged and form large balloon-like blebs that are bad. This new procedure can shrink them.
Decades of smoking took a toll on Bettye Jones. She was diagnosed with COPD and was struggling to breathe.
"My breathing was just bad, bad, bad, the quality of life was just deteriorating," Jones said.
"There's damage to the upper lobes of the lungs and basically the upper lobes of the lungs are hollowed out and they're all damaged and scarred and basically just empty dead space at this point," Dr. Sajive Aleyas said.
Surgery to remove that damaged section of lung is invasive and can be risky. The Zphyr Endobronchial Valve was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June 2018. Henry Ford Hospital began offering the procedure last May. The University of Michigan Health System also offers it, using one to four tiny valves.
Jones underwent a procedure and, for her, the relief was almost immediate. She's gradually cutting back on her need for oxygen and is down to just a couple hours a day.
Watch the full report from Local 4 News at 11 in the video above.