“Phenomenal” Procedure Helps Patients Breathe Easier

Steve Madden began to feel ill right before a trip he and his wife had planned for London. By the time they arrived in their hotel room, luggage in tow, he was gasping for breath. He didn’t leave the room for the next two days.

“It’s a pretty hopeless feeling,” he recalls.

That hopelessness came to an end after the Springfield resident had lung volume reduction surgery at Memorial Medical Center. It’s a procedure that offers an improved quality of life for qualifying patients with severe emphysema.

Through the procedure, 20 percent to 30 percent of the lung area that’s been damaged by emphysema is removed to allow the remaining tissue and surrounding muscles to work more efficiently, making breathing easier.

Memorial recently earned recertification for its lung volume reduction surgery program from the Joint Commission. The hospital is one of only six healthcare facilities in the United States – and the only one which does not provide lung transplant services – to earn this achievement. No other Illinois hospitals offer this surgical procedure.

“There’s no cure for emphysema, but we can improve the lives of those patients who meet the criteria for this procedure,” says Stephen Hazelrigg, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon with Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and professor and chair of cardiothoracic surgery at SIU HealthCare. “For emphysema patients who qualify as candidates, this procedure can prolong their lives.”

Dr. Hazelrigg has performed lung volume reduction surgery in Springfield on more than 420 patients.

A progressively destructive disease in which the walls between the tiny air sacs in the lungs are damaged, emphysema afflicts an estimated 3 million Americans and claims the lives of nearly 14,000 annually.

Memorial first earned certification for its lung volume reduction surgery program in December 2006 and received its first recertification approximately two years after that.

Steve remembers attending a University of Illinois basketball game 10 days after his surgery. Previously, he would spend five to 10 minutes gasping for air until he recovered from the 30-step climb to his seat. But that first game after his surgery posed no problem.

“I didn’t experience any breathlessness at all. It’s phenomenal.”