Recruitment open for new study of lung disease

Australian researchers are seeking volunteers aged 40 and over living with severe emphysema for a world-first study of a novel two-stage procedure to treat the lung disease.

The COVE Study is investigating the safety and efficacy of a two-procedure approach in helping those with severe emphysema to breathe easier and improve their quality of life.

According to COVE Study lead investigator and consultant thoracic surgeon Naveed Alam, “Without effective management and treatment, emphysema can impose a significant physical and emotional toll, with up to one in three affected Australians reporting some level of disability due to the lung disease.

“The often debilitating symptoms of severe emphysema, including chronic dyspnoea, persistent respiratory infections, fatigue and frequent exacerbations resulting in hospitalisation,4,5 can severely compromise patients’ activities of daily living,

“Moreover, those affected are four-times more likely to experience extremely high levels of psychological distress than those without emphysema,8 with breathlessness, or the fear of breathlessness, commonly resulting in anxiety and depression.

“However, despite advances in treatment in recent decades, many patients with advanced disease continue to face substantial impacts on their quality of life, with minimal symptom relief. We hope to address this unmet need by investigating a new treatment combination for severe emphysema through the COVE Study.”

The researchers are aiming to recruit more than 20 Australians living with severe emphysema for the COVE Study.

“We are urging healthcare professionals Australia-wide to consider any patient aged 40 years or over, who has been diagnosed with severe, or very severe emphysema, for the COVE Study,” said COVE Study co-investigator and consultant thoracic surgeon Associate Professor Gavin Wright.

There is currently no cure for severe emphysema. However, effective treatment can slow disease progression, extend life expectancy, and manage symptoms, to improve quality of life.

Surgical treatment options may include Lung Volume Reduction Surgery (LVRS), bullectomy and/or lung transplantation, which range from removal of damaged sections of the lung to removal and replacement of one or both. These are irreversible major surgeries that carry a risk of post-operative infection and require significant recovery time.

In some patients, lung volume reduction may also be achieved without major surgery utilising endobronchial valves (EBVs). The insertion of EBVs is a minimally invasive procedure involving placement of the valves in the affected lobes using a flexible catheter, guided by a bronchoscope, thereby avoiding the need for incisions or cutting.

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Disease (GOLD) recommends the use of endobronchial valves for bronchoscopic lung volume reduction (BLVR) as a standard treatment for people with emphysema or less severe forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“While the evolution of EBVs represents one of the most significant advances in the treatment of severe emphysema over the past two decades, their use is currently limited to a select group of patients,” said Associate Professor Wright.

“The use of EBVs in severe emphysema patients with little to no collateral ventilation has been shown to improve lung function, reduce shortness of breath, and increase their ability to exercise and participate in everyday activities,” he said.

“Unfortunately, with collateral ventilation occurring in 62 per cent of those living with severe emphysema, this represents a significant portion of Australians living with the disease who are currently unable to access EBV treatment.”

The COVE Study will examine the safety and efficacy of combining two medical procedures, four weeks apart.

Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS) Fissure completion is a surgical procedure to completely close off sections in the affected lung, blocking air transfer between the lobes on the treated side and minimising collateral ventilation.

Insertion of endobronchial valves is a minimally invasive procedure involving the insertion of small, one-way valves, a type of EBV, into the isolated lung lobe.

Six months post- endobronchial valve insertion, the study researchers will assess each participant’s lung function, lung volume, tolerance to exercise, dyspnoea, and Quality of Life (QoL) scores.

“Through improved understanding of the safety and efficacy of combining these two procedures in the COVE Study, we hope to help expand treatment options for Australians living with severe emphysema and collateral ventilation, who have not previously been considered for treatment with EBVs,” added Associate Professor Wright.

St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne are recruiting for the COVE Study.

Clinicians or patients wishing to learn more, or to register their interest for the COVE Study can visit

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