Our lungs take about 20,000 breaths per day, and as the only internal organs exposed to environmental hazards and contaminants, they’re uniquely vulnerable to damage. An estimated 40 million Americans suffer from a major respiratory condition, including lung cancer, asthma, tuberculosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which encompasses emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
“Unlike a lot of other tissues in the body, the lungs don’t regenerate,” explains pulmonologist Gaetane Michaud, MD, director of NYU Langone’s new Interventional Pulmonology Program. “Exposure to environmental toxins can often set off a chain of injuries, putting you on a dangerous trajectory.”
40 million Americans suffer from a major chronic respiratory condition.
When those injuries compromise the ability to breathe, Dr. Michaud’s special training enables her to provide relief. She is a leading expert in interventional pulmonology, a relatively new area of pulmonary medicine that uses endoscopic tools and techniques to help patients with chronic lung conditions breathe easier. “In less than a year, Dr. Michaud and her team have built the most comprehensive interventional pulmonology program in the New York metropolitan area,” notes Daniel Sterman, MD, director of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine. The group will launch a fellowship program next year and will soon lead clinical trials of cutting-edge minimally invasive treatments for lung cancer and other serious pulmonary disorders.
Since interventional pulmonology emerged in late 1990s, it has dramatically changed medicine’s approach to lung disease, including the way lung cancer is diagnosed, staged, and treated. About 80 percent of the patients treated by NYU Langone’s interventional pulmonologists have lung cancer.
“With personalized medicine,” Dr. Michaud explains, “we look for specific targets of therapy, and minimally invasive techniques enable us to get a lot of tissue samples without subjecting the patient to surgery in many cases.”
Half of all patients with lung cancer will develop fluid in their lungs or chest cavity, and one-third will experience a blocked airway—conditions that can be treated by interventional pulmonologists.
“Our less invasive approaches have shifted a lot of care from the hospital to outpatient settings, minimizing the time patients spend away from their families,” notes Dr. Michaud. “This has resulted in fewer readmissions, fewer visits to the Emergency Department, better quality of life, and higher patient satisfaction. Our outcomes are second to none.”