New ‘lung washing’ procedure helps patients breathe again

Dr. Shaheen Islam, chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia.

Corvina Wright is breathing a lot better these days thanks to a new procedure performed by doctors at Augusta University Medical Center.

Wright is the medical center’s first patient to undergo a Whole Lung Lavage, a therapeutic treatment for patients who, like Wright, suffer from Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis (PAP), a rare and life-threatening lung disease caused by a build-up of protein and other debris in the alveoli. As more protein is produced, patients find it harder to breathe and are often prescribed oxygen to survive.

The noninvasive procedure involves clearing one lung at a time using saline to wash protein and other abnormal substances out of the air sacs, called alveoli. This procedure can take up to four hours, and patients typically resume normal activities within a few days without the use of oxygen.

“For years, I’ve dealt with so many complications due to this condition and, without this option, I would not have a good quality of life,” Wright said. “I used to travel to Jacksonville, Florida, to get this treatment, and I am grateful it is being offered so close to my home in Trenton, South Carolina, because the care I get at Augusta University really puts me at ease.”

AU Medical Center is the only facility in the Augusta area offering this treatment, and procedures are done by Dr. Shaheen Islam, chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia. As a national leader in interventional pulmonology, Islam said he is delighted this health care opportunity now available in Augusta.

“We aim to provide patients, like Corvina, with optimal care, and I am grateful to offer this type of treatment to those who are suffering from this rare and life-limiting illness,” he said. “With this being a chronic illness, the Whole Lung Lavage is a treatment PAP patients will need once or twice a year. However, it improves their quality of life which is why we do it.”

It has been four weeks since Wright underwent her treatment and said now that her breathing is better, she is excited about the future.

“As a mom, I want to be here for my children and this treatment gives me a chance to make this dream happen,” she said. “Dr. Islam and his team are great people, and I’ve recovered faster than I anticipated. So, I’m glad to be his patient because I trust him.”

Contact the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine to learn more about PAP testing options and the medical center’s Whole Lung Lavage treatments.

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Danielle Harris
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Danielle Harris

Danielle Harris is Senior Media Relations Coordinator at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-721-7511 or deharris1@augusta.edu.

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Danielle Harris Written by Danielle Harris

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