What Lung Washing Looks Like

A unique way to treat a rare lung problem

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You power-wash your house. Can you imagine power-washing your lungs?

That’s what lung washing, or lung lavage, is like, says pulmonologist Daniel Culver, DO.

Lung washing has revolutionized treatment for people with a rare, once-fatal lung disease called pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP), says Dr. Culver.

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In PAP, a natural fat-and-protein substance called surfactant floods the lung’s air sacs. As surfactant builds up, it gets progressively harder to breathe. Many patients develop a worsening cough and shortness of breath.

Washing both lungs at once — whole lung lavage — brings relief and a return to normal activities within a matter of days.

In this video, watch our anesthesia team, led by Basem Abdelmalak, MD, flush each lung with saline, wrap an agitating vest around the patient’s chest to release surfactant, and suction the liquid away.

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Afterward, patients sometimes tell Dr. Abelmalak they feel as if an elephant stepped off their chest.

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