New treatment for rare lung disease now available on NHS

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A pioneering technique to treat patients with a rare form of lung disease is to become routinely available on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), says a Daily Express report. It involves inflating tiny balloons to compress blockages in blood vessels. The rare condition means clots block blood flow in the arteries, raising pressure in the lungs which can cause heart failure and premature death.

The report says the intricate technique, which is carried out under local anaesthetic, means patients will no longer have to rely on long-term and costly drugs. Balloon pulmonary angioplasty will be used to treat the condition known as chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. Sufferers struggle for breath after small movements, cannot work and need to take oxygen when resting.

The report says a very fine wire, around 4mm in length, is inserted into blood vessels in the lungs to guide a tiny balloon into position. It is then inflated to the size of a pea for a few seconds to push the blockage aside and restore blood flow to lung tissue. It is then deflated and removed but can be repeated several times in different parts of the lung during a single treatment session.

Patients will be referred to the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire for the pioneering treatment, the report says. Consultant respiratory physician Dr Joanna Pepke-Zaba said: “It allows us to get to those hard-to-reach areas of the lung and offer patients a better chance of survival and a much- improved quality of life.”

Elizabeth Irons, 69, a retired teacher from Nottingham, was rushed to hospital gasping for air after blood clots formed in her lungs. She was diagnosed with the condition but then told the locations of the clots were too hard to reach using the only surgical treatment available at the time. However, the report says, she was given fresh hope when doctors later offered her the new treatment.

Irons said the procedure had improved her quality of life “enormously” and she is looking forward to spending more time playing with her granddaughter Sienna, four. She said: “It’s a life-changing technique. I can do so much more than I could. I’ve been able to go on holidays and fly around the world to see all my sisters. “I’m also able to be a lot more active with my granddaughter. My biggest fear was I wouldn’t be around to see her grow up.”

The report says the condition occurs in up to 4% of patients who are diagnosed with blood clots on the lungs, but some people are not suitable for surgery.

Daily Express report

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