Surgical options are available to some people with advanced emphysema.
- Lung Volume Reduction surgery (LVRS): Although it may not make sense that reducing the size of the lung could help the shortness of breath from emphysema, it is important to remember that emphysema causes an abnormal expansion of the chest wall, which decreases the efficiency of breathing. This surgery is only effective if both upper lobes of the lungs are involved. Removal of this involved lung allows for better expansion of the lower portion of lungs. In a select group of emphysema patients this can improve quality of life for a period of years. Newer studies are underway using one way valves placed in the airways to simulate this volume reduction. The effectiveness of this less invasive procedure is undergoing study at this time.
- Lung transplant: For people with the most advanced disease, transplantation of either one or both lungs can produce a near-cure. Transplantation brings with it another set of risks and benefits. People who undergo transplantation, however, will have to take medication to prevent the rejection of the transplant by the body. Also, not everyone qualifies for transplantation, and those who do are limited by the short supply of available organs.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is probably the most effective therapy for COPD patients with emphysema. Graded physical exercise, proper breathing techniques, education about the disease and available therapies empowers the patient. It improves quality of life and decreases hospitalizations.
If you have emphysema, follow-up care is crucial to managing this disease. You need to become a partner with your doctor in the management of your health.
As Benjamin Franklin wrote, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Realistically, the "cures" or treatments available to doctors and people dealing with emphysema are far more difficult and far less effective than preventing the progression of the disease in the first place.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/10/2016
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