October 3, 2022

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A new pioneering approach to salvage damaged lungs has significantly improved the life of a grandmother in the NSW Central West.

Norval Mileto, 74, was one of the first dozen patients in the world to undergo the successful procedure to heal her damaged lungs from severe emphysema.

She couldn’t walk more than a few steps or talk without getting puffed.

New trial using polymer foam to heal damaged lungs.
Norval was suffering emphysema when her son told her about the trial. (9News)

“I struggled to even get out of bed and get into bed and things like that,” she said.

“She was unable to participate in things other grandparents would otherwise like to do,” Rocky Mileto, her son, said.

Rocky was the one who found out about the new treatment to help his mum.

“My son read in the paper there was an operation I might be able to have,” Norval said.

The non-invasive operation involves a liquid that turns into a foam to seal the damaged holes in the airways.

New trial using polymer foam to heal damaged lungs.
The trial uses polymer foam to repair damaged lungs. (9News)

The polymer foam was designed to help at least half of patients who are told they’re not eligible for one-way valve implants which reduce the volume of destroyed lung tissue.

“This was a first in the world trial we conducted at Macquarie University Hospital,” Professor Alvin Ing, respiratory specialist at Macquarie University Hospital, said. 

“You’ll allow the less destroyed lung to expand and therefore allow the patient to absorb more oxygen and have less symptoms.

“We had a lot of patients who were disappointed and we said ‘sorry ma’am’ or ‘sorry sir, we can’t offer you this procedure’.”

New trial using polymer foam to heal damaged lungs.
Professor Alvin Ing says researchers are hopeful the proedure can be used more widely. (9News)

A trial of 14 patients who received the polymer foam prior to having the valves inserted had a successful treatment.

“We think we’re very successful in enabling this procedure to now be opened up to people who couldn’t have this previously,” Ing said.

“It’s still early days but we think the results are very promising.”

New trial using polymer foam to heal damaged lungs.
An international trial is currently underway for the treatment. (9News)

For Norval, the treatment has been life-changing.

“It’s amazing, absolutely amazing,” she said.

“It’s made such a difference to my life and my family.”

A larger, international trial is currently underway and so far the team at Macquarie University Hospital has three years of safety data.

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