Greco was the first patient at Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital to undergo an innovative minimally invasive procedure to help patients with severe emphysema breathe easier. The Zephyr ® Endobronchial Valve System improves lung function, exercise capacity and quality of life without major surgery.
Patients with COPD may experience hyperinflated lungs. Diseased air sacs don’t work properly, and air becomes trapped causing the lungs to overinflate. Breathing becomes so overwhelming that many patients struggle with simple tasks like talking or walking short distances.
During the Zephyr procedure, an interventional pulmonologist places, on average, four tiny valves in the airways to block off diseased parts of the lungs. Trapped air escapes through the valves reducing the volume. The healthier lobes can then expand more fully and work more efficiently.
The one-time procedure is done during a bronchoscopy that requires no cutting or incisions. A thin tube containing a light, camera and small tools are inserted into the lungs through the nose or mouth.
“Studies have found patients treated with Zephyr valves can breathe easier, be more active, and enjoy a significantly improved quality of life,” said Sara Greenhill, MD, director of interventional pulmonology at Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital. “We are excited to now offer this option to patients in the south suburbs who are struggling with day-to-day activities because of their COPD.”
Greco has been cooking professionally since he was 12 years old. First at his dad’s Evergreen Park restaurant and later owning a restaurant in Willow Springs and working at several establishments in the south suburbs. For a man who enjoyed making every meal a special event for his patrons, being stuck at home has been frustrating.
“I was at my wits’ end. I really miss work and cooking is my therapy,” said Greco. “I’m doing much better and I’m eager to exercise to improve my quality of life, especially so I can spend more time with my grandchildren.”
Greco says he has struggled with his COPD for several years and was discouraged until he began seeing a new pulmonologist Patricia Mikes, MD, at Northwestern Medicine.
“I’m so grateful for Dr. Mikes and the care she took to really explore what other options there were for me,” said Greco. “She referred me to Dr. Greenhill and her amazing patient navigator Jennie Knight who have treated me like family.”
According to the American Lung Association, more than 12.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, but millions more may have the disease without even knowing it. There are few treatment options for most patients with emphysema and there is no cure.
“Before Zephyr, the only options for these patients were highly invasive treatments such as lung volume reduction surgery or lung transplantation,” said Dr. Greenhill. “It is amazing to see how quickly patients improve and get back to activities they have long missed. It is truly a life-changing procedure.”
Northwestern Medicine is among a select group of pulmonary programs in Chicagoland to offer the Zephyr System. It is currently available at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.
To learn more about Northwestern Medicine, visit nm.org.