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Chicago Man Breathes Again Thanks to Northwestern Medicine Study

CHICAGO, Nov. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Seven years ago, Keith Brown decided to skip the elevator and take the stairs to the ninth floor of the Chicago parking garage where he worked.

He only made it to the sixth floor.

"I was gasping for air," Brown said. "This wasn't something that comes from being a little out of shape or from getting a little older. I knew something was seriously wrong."

Brown was diagnosed with COPD and emphysema, the third leading cause of death in the United States, only behind heart disease and cancer. Right now, the only studied interventions that prolong life for patients with severe COPD are supplemental oxygen in people with low oxygen levels and lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) in appropriately selected individuals. Like most COPD patients, Brown was given medication but told there was no cure. He was 58 years old. 

"I figured this was my life, it's not going to get any better," he said. "It got so bad for me that I sometimes couldn't walk up a flight of stairs. I was frustrated because I'm not a lay-on-the-couch kind of person. I thought there had to be something else for me."

There was. It's a new investigational treatment that Northwestern Medicine® pulmonologists are hoping will provide the same benefits as having major surgery. Brown was the first individual at Northwestern Memorial Hospital to enroll in a clinical trial that involves having metal coils implanted in each lung to create more room for the healthier areas of the lung to expand and function better. This Lung Volume Reduction Coil works by squeezing the diseased portions of the lung and by doing so, the coil creates more room for the healthier areas of the lung to expand and function better.

"When I woke up from the second procedure, I felt better almost right away," said Brown, a London native who moved to Chicago 30 years ago.  "It was such a huge improvement that a few days later I was jumping around like a two year old."

Ravi Kalhan, MD, pulmonologist and director of the asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) program at Northwestern Memorial oversaw the procedure where 10 metal coils were inserted into Brown's left lung in April. Another group of 10 coils were inserted in his right lung in August.

"This FDA approved trial is an important step forward for the COPD community," Kalhan said. "We need to test novel therapies that may improve the lives of people living with COPD, and our program at Northwestern is thrilled to offer participation in this study to our patients."

One of the major reasons that people living with COPD feel breathless when they do things is called lung hyperinflation. This is when too much air gets stuck in the lungs of individuals with emphysema. It occurs because under normal circumstances, the lungs are like a balloon – they are rubbery and elastic, and when air goes into them, their natural function is to deflate and let the air back out. With emphysema, the lungs lose their elasticity so the deflation is diminished, Kalhan said.

"These lung coils could be a game changer for individuals living with emphysema," said Colin Gillespie, MD, pulmonologist and director of interventional pulmonology at Northwestern Medicine  "Our hope is that patients with emphysema will have an improved quality of life, better exercise capacity and improved lung function at substantially less risk."

To learn more about this clinical trial call (312) 695-6292 or email

Northwestern Medicine is the shared vision that joins Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in a collaborative effort to transform medicine through quality healthcare, academic excellence and scientific discovery. 

For more information about Northwestern Memorial, visit our website or connect with us on social media.

About Northwestern Medicine®
Northwestern Medicine® is the collaboration between Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine around a strategic vision to transform the future of healthcare.  It encompasses the research, teaching and patient care activities of the academic medical center. Sharing a commitment to superior quality, academic excellence and patient safety, the organizations within Northwestern Medicine comprise more than 9,000 clinical and administrative staff, 3,100 medical and science faculty and 700 students. The entities involved in Northwestern Medicine remain separate organizations. Northwestern Medicine is a trademark of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and is used by Northwestern University.

About Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Northwestern Memorial is one of the country's premier academic medical center hospitals and is the primary teaching hospital of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Along with its Prentice Women's Hospital and Stone Institute of Psychiatry, the hospital has 1,705 affiliated physicians and 6,769 employees.  Northwestern Memorial is recognized for providing exemplary patient care and state-of-the art advancements in the areas of cardiovascular care; women's health; oncology; neurology and neurosurgery; solid organ and soft tissue transplants and orthopaedics.

Northwestern Memorial has nursing Magnet Status, the nation's highest recognition for patient care and nursing excellence. Northwestern Memorial ranks 6th in the nation in the U.S. News & World Report 2013-14 Honor Roll of America's Best Hospitals. The hospital is recognized in 14 of 16 clinical specialties rated by U.S. News and is No. 1 in Illinois and Chicago in U.S. News' 2013-14 state and metro rankings, respectively. For 14 years running, Northwestern Memorial has been rated among the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" guide by Working Mother magazine. The hospital is a recipient of the prestigious National Quality Health Care Award and has been chosen by Chicagoans as the Consumer Choice according to the National Research Corporation's annual survey for 15 consecutive years. 

SOURCE Northwestern Medicine
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