Joan Trincia Is Breathing Easier and Enjoying Life Again Without Surgery

For nearly a decade, severe emphysema made stairs seem like a mountain for Joan Trincia. Mornings were particularly rough, and severe coughing fits zapped the energy she needed for many of the things she loved to do.

Today, thanks to ChristianaCare and a few tiny, one-way valves that help her lungs work more efficiently, those same stairs are much easier to climb. She also enjoys long walks with her family, and plays with her granddaughter Mary, an active 11-year-old who loves to play outside.

“When I woke up from the procedure, all I wanted to do was jump and dance,” said Trincia. “I felt amazing.”

Trincia was the first of about 20 patients now in Delaware who are breathing easier and enjoying more active lifestyles following a new nonsurgical valve placement called endobronchial lung volume reduction. It’s an “easy” procedure, she said — no surgery and no pain. Just a whole new level of energy, and the feeling of finally being able to breathe again.

To learn more, talk to your primary care provider or pulmonologist, or contact ChristianaCare’s Interventional Pulmonology team at 302-623-4530.

This breakthrough procedure — available in Delaware only at ChristianaCare — involves the placement of tiny, one-way valves to block off diseased parts of the lung and allow healthier lung tissue to expand and take in more air.

“When I woke up from the procedure, all I wanted to do was jump and dance,” said Trincia. “I felt amazing.”

Clinical studies show that almost immediately patients are able to breathe easier, be more active and energetic, experience less shortness of breath and enjoy a significantly improved quality of life compared to untreated patients.

With endobronchial valves, patients like Trincia report taking their first full breath in years almost immediately after the procedure. Within a few days, they are back to doing everyday tasks with ease. Here, Trincia strolls with her daughter Julie and granddaughter Mary.

Her daughter Julie described watching her mother go from a place where every day was a struggle to now being ready to do whatever the world has to offer as “life-changing.”

“It’s very difficult to watch someone you love struggle to breathe,” she said. “To see the almost immediate difference in my mom after this procedure is just incredible. She’s a whole different person. Getting this help totally changed her outlook on things. She feels better about herself and about life.”

Ismael Matus, M.D., DAABIP, FCCP

Ismael Matus, M.D., DAABIP, FCCP, director of Interventional Pulmonology, whose team has been placing lung valves for nearly a decade, is particularly excited about their use in this breakthrough FDA-approved treatment to help patients with severe emphysema breathe easier without surgery.

“It’s not often that procedures offer such dramatic benefits,” he said.

“We’re now able to help those with severe emphysema have more satisfying, active lives. It’s very gratifying and it’s why my colleagues and I are in this field.”

You may be a candidate for endobronchial valves if you:

  • Have known or suspected severe emphysema (a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD) and hyperinflation (when air gets trapped in diseased parts of the lung) with a higher degree of obstruction of the airways (FEV1 <50% predicted).
  • Are breathless even with medications or using supplemental oxygen.
  • Cannot have surgery due to other medical conditions.
  • Do not currently have a severe heart condition.
  • Are not a current smoker.

A simple diagnostic workup that includes pulmonary function testing, a CT scan and other testing is required to determine if the procedure is right for you.

Trincia is indeed grateful that Dr. Matus and his team at ChristianaCare have introduced this nonsurgical valve option to Delaware.

“Just being able to function every day — to feel good and to be able to breathe — that’s really what it’s all about,” Trincia said.

“My granddaughter doesn’t stop, and now I’m able to keep up with her.”