In this health video learn how small stents are helping emphysema patients take a deep breath again.
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Jennifer Mathews: For Barbara Greenfield, the simplest chores are taxing. An oxygen tank and cord are now her lifeline. Barbara started smoking at age 15. By the time she reached 55, she was up to three packs a day and had early stage emphysema. Armin Ernst: If you think of the lung is something like a sponge, a bath sponge with all the little bubbles, it destroys the walls between those bubbles. Jennifer Mathews: The destroyed walls make it difficult for patients to exchange oxygen for carbon-dioxide. Barbara Greenfield: It's like I am suffocating. Jennifer Mathews: Dr. Armin Ernst is studying a minimally invasive treatment that could help. During the procedure, doctors placed a bronchoscope through the mouth, then make six small openings, openings to help the patient breathe. Stents are then inserted to keep the holes from collapsing. Armin Ernst: The stents are covered with a medication that's called Taxol that is designed to prevent this happening. Jennifer Mathews: Barbara's husband hopes the treatment will help her live more comfortably. Martin Greenfield: There's always the concern of how much it will do to her and ultimately limiting the length of our life together. Jennifer Mathews: She hopes she'll be breathing a little easier. Barbara Greenfield: This is my only hope. It's not going to cure me, but it's going to perhaps make my life a little simpler. Jennifer Mathews: This is Jennifer Mathews reporting.