New non-invasive procedure helps patients breathe easier

A rapid, non-invasive procedure is helping patients suffering from nasal wall collapse breathe easier.

In patients with the ailment, the cartilage around the nostril drops inward and restricts the flow of air up through the nose. It can be caused by weakened tissue, an injury or facial paralysis like in the case of a stroke. In some it’s an overgrowth or thickening of the natural anatomy. For Ryan Evans, exercise sparked his symptoms.

"I’ve noticed that when I exercise and do heavy cardio, a lot of times I have a hard time breathing through my nose, and it seems the heavier I breathe the more my nose pinches itself off," Ryan said. "It’s terrible, it’s not fun at, all so I use a breathe-right strip when I exercise and that opens it up a bit."

There are invasive procedures to strengthen the side of the nose and open up the airway, including suspension techniques using screws and cartilage grafts to build up the nasal wall. But Ryan is hoping a tiny implant will be a less invasive, permanent solution.

"Think of the latera implant as an internal nasal dilator strip, just spreading that nasal valve a few millimeters," rhinologist Dr. Jordan Pritikin said. "A millimeter change in dimension can have an exponential increase in nasal air flow."

To insert the implant, Pritikin loads it into a delivery device and matches it to a mark on Ryan’s nose. The implant’s y-shaped barb anchors underneath the skin between the nasal cartilage and the nasal bone, and then extends downward to prop open the passageway by pushing the cartilage outward.

"This portion extends underneath the skin and underneath the cartilage to support it in a cantilever effect. Think of a diving board fixed at one end but that fixation point is strong enough to support the weight of the diver at the free end," Pritikin  said.

With one click of the delivery device, the first implant is inserted, and then a second in Ryan’s other nostril.

Early reviews of the device: Ryan said his nose, "feels like it’s being held open."

Pritikin said studies looking at patients two years out find there is an 86 percent success rate in terms of improved nasal airway scores and nasal airway symptoms. Patients who have received the implant have had a very low rate of infection, but some have experienced swelling, and in rare cases, a change in the appearance of the nose.

Over time, the implants dissolve.

"There is a capsule that gets created around the implant as the implant gets broken down, and that capsule gets filled in with collagen, which is a protein your body makes in scar," Pritikin said. "And so what’s ultimately left six months, nine months, a year out is a collagen implant rather than an artificial implant."

"No more breathe-right strips— that’s what I’m looking forward to," Ryan said.