Vicario Fletcher was having trouble breathing. At night, she would get winded just walking from her bed to the bathroom. She thought maybe it was her heart medication that was making her short of breath.
An appointment with her cardiologist in August 2020 confirmed that the medication wasn’t the problem, and Vicario, who lives in Pine Grove, was referred to Our Lady of the Lake Livingston for a chest X-ray. Through the screening, her doctors discovered a cancerous nodule in her lungs and in the fall of that year, she underwent several weeks of radiation to treat it.
But after recovery, Vicario continued to deal with breathing problems. As a former smoker who worked as a housekeeper for many years, she figured the cleaning chemicals and tobacco use had contributed to her lung issues.
Patients with COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, have difficulty expelling all the air in their lungs, causing pressure on the lungs and surrounding organs.
Dr. Moosa could see that even the walk from her car to his office left Vicario short of breath, and after a full evaluation, he determined she was a candidate for bronchoscopic lung volume reduction, or BLVR, using the Zephyr valve. The innovative procedure uses a small tube inserted through the nose or mouth to deliver up to four tiny valves into the airways of the lungs to block off and deflate diseased portions while allowing the healthier lobes and the diaphragm to function more effectively.
The minimally invasive procedure meant that Vicario felt little to no pain during recovery and only required a two-day hospital stay for observation to make sure her lungs were inflating properly.
“Once the valve got installed, almost immediately her life changed,” Dr. Moosa says. “She was able to do a lot more than she was before.”
In the past, Dr. Moosa says, patients with COPD would be given inhalers or pulmonary rehabilitation to improve their lungs. Some patients would also be considered for complex surgery, which, for more high-risk patients like Vicario, could lead to other complications post-treatment.
Now thanks to the BLVR procedure, Vicario says her shortness of breath has been greatly reduced. She says she’s thankful to Dr. Moosa for his friendly bedside manner and the way he listened to her concerns and questions.
“I will be 72 in April,” she says. “I’ve got grandkids and great grandkids, so they are my reason to keep going. I would recommend this to anybody. Even though it’s not a cure, it really helps.”
Dr. Moosa says while the BLVR procedure is not a solution for every patient dealing with COPD, it’s something they should discuss with their primary care provider as a potential way to improve their quality of life.
Our Lady of the Lake Health is on track to treat about 40 to 45 patients with the procedure this year, Dr. Moosa says, which is more than most medical facilities in the state and the region.
“Our Lady of the Lake Health is definitely the most experienced center for treating patients using Zephyr valves,” Dr. Moosa says.
Learn more about the pulmonology services throughout our health system to care for your respiratory needs.
In the Baton Rouge region, call (225) 765-5864 to schedule an evaluation.
In the Acadiana region, call (337) 470-3040 for more information.