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Trust expert awarded grant to investigate new treatment for severe emphysema

16 May 2016


Consultant chest physician Dr Nicholas Hopkinson has been awarded £350k from the National Institute of Health Research’s (NIHR) ‘research for patient benefit’ scheme to carry out a research project comparing two approaches to treating severe emphysema.


The study aims to determine which approach is more effective, and the risks and benefits to patients of each. The project will involve 76 patients across two sites over three years, and will start in June 2016.

Severe emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is a major cause of ill health in the UK, affecting around one million people, and is now the third largest cause of death worldwide.


Dr Nicholas Hopkinson
Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, consultant chest physician at the Trust

The project will compare a traditional treatment approach called lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) with a new approach using a fibreoptic camera (bronchoscope) to place valves into the airways of the lung (BLVR). Patients will be randomly selected to receive either the LVRS or the BLVR treatment. Patients’ lung function, walking distance and breathlessness will then be compared to see which group has done better.


This could lead to a new preferred treatment for severe emphysema and has the potential to improve patients’ outcomes and quality of life, as well as helping to inform which approach is better value for the NHS.


Dr Hopkinson said, "We are delighted to have received backing from the NIHR to undertake this study. I hope it will enable us to ensure we are offering the best treatment to our patients with severe emphysema, which is often severely debilitating and can be fatal."


The Trust offers a world-class, multidisciplinary service to people from all over the UK who suffer with COPD. Harefield Hospital has the largest single-site pulmonary rehabilitation programme in the UK, with more than 600 referrals a year and both hospitals provide physiotherapy gyms.

Patients also have access to the innovative Singing for Breathing workshops, which help them manage symptoms by teaching a better understanding of breath control through the use of the voice.


NIHR funds the respiratory biomedical research unit (BRU) at Royal Brompton Hospital, a partnership between the Trust and Imperial College London. The respiratory BRU allows researchers to carry out ground-breaking research into COPD and other lung conditions. The third RAND analysis of influential biomedical and health research, published earlier this year, confirmed the leading role played by researchers at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals on the global medical research stage.


Find out more about the Trust’s research into COPD

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