Bronchoscopic valves for prolonged air leak: current status and technique
Unidirectional airway valves are devices used for the treatment of persistent air leaks (PALs) secondary to alveolar-pleural fistulas (APF) or bronchopleural fistulas (BPFs). These valves were originally developed as a non-surgical alternative to lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Randomized trials investigating the use of valves for bronchoscopic LVRS did not lead to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval, but stemming from these studies a Humanitarian Device Exemption (HDE) was granted to Spiration intrabronchial valves (IBVs) for the treatment of PALs. These valves are being increasingly utilized due to the effectiveness of IBVSs in reducing PALs, thus shortening duration of hospitalizations and minimizing the risk of hospital associated complications. The literature supporting the use of unidirectional airway valves for the bronchoscopic treatment of PALs is grounded primarily in case reports. While the current body of literature available to justify the use of unidirectional valves is limited to case series, current multicenter, randomized trials should provide further guidance regarding patient selection and effectiveness.