Your Health

Breathe easy: ECH among first to offer lung procedure with no incisions


Mike Ichikawa/Special to the Town Crier
Dr. Ganesh Krishna, medical director of El Camino Hospital’s Interventional Pulmonology Program, holds the newly approved Zephyr valve.

With two more trials in the pipeline, El Camino Hospital’s Dr. Ganesh Krishna and his team are making history as the first health-care professionals in California to offer a minimally invasive procedure for those struggling with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema.

In March, Krishna – medical director of the hospital’s Interventional Pulmonology Program – and his colleagues successfully treated patients with the new U.S. Food & Drug Administration-approved Zephyr Endobronchial Valve. The Zephyr is considered a major advancement in relieving hyperinflation, a common symptom those with emphysema struggle with when air becomes trapped in their lungs and prevents new air from coming in, according to Krishna.

“Most patients have a mixture of both COPD and emphysema, which is caused by cigarette smoking but also environmental exposure and genetic disorders,” Krishna said. “In a disease that is very slowly progressing, (when) looking at the turn of events, it’s going to take a lot of years to stop it. People live with this disease for a much longer period of time (than other lung diseases), so trends and shifts will also take a longer time.”

Approved in several countries as early as 2003, the first no-incision lung procedure helps relieve shortness of breath while improving lung function, exercise capacity and quality of life for emphysema patients for at least one year post-treatment.

Groundbreaking procedure

Krishna said El Camino Hospital was selected to be one of seven hospitals across the U.S. to first treat patients with the Zephyr because of its reputation for comprehensive care for those who suffer from bronchial diseases. After conducting multiple valve trials during his time at Stanford University, Krishna has been actively involved in starting a program that specializes in minimally invasive procedures since his arrival at El Camino in 2008.

“We were the first center on the West Coast and second in the country to do this, and now we have highest volume of patients that we have done this with on the West Coast,” Krishna said, after just having completed a Zephyr valve procedure the previous day. “The patients are, by FDA recommendation, in the hospital for three days. If anything happens, the threats are highest in the first three days.”

Krishna is thrilled El Camino Hospital has created a breakthrough with the opportunity of the Zephyr valve, but he is even more optimistic about the attention to detail from caregivers regarding elements such as length of hospital stays, frequency of hospital stays and proper use of medications and what that could mean for future research.

“The disease is fairly common in terms of prevalence,” he said. “Overall, smoking rates in the U.S. continue to come down, which is good news. Globally, smoking rates have not come down. But even in the U.S., cigarette (use) has come down, but people are still vaping.”

Studies show that vaping – which involves smoking electronic cigarettes instead of standard ones – is especially popular with teens and young adults. Research from agencies such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that not only are e-cigarettes from popular brands like Juul still dangerous, but they can actually act as a transition for those who use them to move to regular cigarettes.

“People see vaping as not as bad,” Krishna said. “People have a false sense of security thinking it is not as bad.”

For more information on El Camino Hospital’s Interventional Pulmonology Program, visit elcaminohospital.org/services/lung-care.

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