‘Freezing’ lung procedure improves symptoms in patients with chronic bronchitis

A 30-minute lung ‘freezing’ procedure can improve symptoms in patients with chronic bronchitis, according to a recently published study led by researchers at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

The study, led by Professor Pallav Shah, used the RejuvenAir System, a medical device which releases freezing liquid nitrogen in specific areas of the lungs, in patients with chronic bronchitis. The liquid nitrogen destroys the defective cells whilst simultaneously encouraging the growth of healthy cells.

Chronic bronchitis is the most common form of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a disease which makes it difficult to empty air out of the lungs because the airways have become narrowed. It is characterised by a consistent cough, the production of sputum (phlegm), a decline in lung function, reduced quality of life, increased risk of exacerbations (flare up of symptoms), increased hospitalisations and a lower life expectancy.

There is currently no cure for chronic bronchitis and the treatments that are available, such as inhalers, only help to relieve symptoms, which is why innovative studies such as these are so important. 

The aims of the study where to determine whether the RejuvenAir device would be safe to use in patients with chronic bronchitis and whether the results would allow for a larger and more comprehensive study to be conducted in the future. 

Professor Shah and his team recruited 35 participants with chronic bronchitis to undergo the CyroSpray treatment on the 3 separate occasions (every 4-6 weeks), each one lasting approximately 30 minutes and carried out under general anaesthetic. 

The study managed to prove that the treatment was clinically safe, that participants would be able to complete all three treatments (34 out 35 participants underwent all three procedures) and that there were clinical benefits for participants at three months and six months after the last treatment.

Several patient reported outcomes measures were used that look at factors relevant to the individual patient, such as symptoms, perceived health status and quality of life.

Professor Shah said: “There are no available medical treatments for chronic bronchitis with persistent sputum production. This treatment involves a bronchoscopy under general anaesthesia which allows controlled amount of liquid nitrogen delivered to the airways.

“The effect is to remove the surface lining of the airway epithelium and when it regenerates it appears to have fewer mucus glands. Hence the patients have an improvement in their cough and breathing.”

So, what’s next for this innovative medical device?

“These early results are very promising, and we are due to start a more detailed clinical study with the liquid nitrogen cryospray (RejuvenAir) treatment.” Professor Shah said.

The clinical trial was conducted in collaboration with Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the University Medical Centre Groningen in the Netherlands, and is funded by CSA Medical, the company that manufacturers the RejuvenAir System.

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