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Breathing made easier for people with severe emphysema
Emphysema is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). When you have it, every breath can be a struggle. There are noninvasive treatments that may help, but sometimes they don’t help enough. At UW Health we offer a full range of surgical treatments, including lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS), bronchoscopic lung volume reduction (bLVR), and lung transplantation.
U.S. News and World Report ranks us among the best programs in the country for pulmonology and lung surgery. Here, you’ll get expert care and personalized support. Our goal is to help you breathe easier so you can be more active and live life more fully.
About the treatment
What is lung reduction surgery?
A healthy lung is filled with tiny air sacs called alveoli. Oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged in these sacs as you breathe in and out.
Emphysema can damage the alveoli and cause them to lose their shape. As a result, air can become trapped in your lungs, enlarging that part of your lungs. This area pushes on the rest of your lung and interferes with normal breathing.
LVR removes or blocks off parts of your lung that are most damaged by emphysema. This doesn’t cure your condition but may help your remaining lung tissue work better. The procedure can involve one or both lungs.
Who is lung volume reduction for?
The American Lung Association notes the best candidates for successful surgery are those who:
Are unable to exercise well after taking part in a pulmonary rehabilitation program
Are younger than 75 to 80 years of age
Have severe lung damage from emphysema, particularly in the upper lung
Haven’t smoked for at least six months
If you are not a candidate for lung volume reduction, then lung transplantation may be an option.
The treatment process
What to expect
If you meet the criteria for LVR, here’s what you can expect:
Our team will perform several tests. These include tests that look at your heart and lung function, exercise tests and a CT scan of your lungs. The tests help us make sure the procedure will be safe for you and that it’s likely to help you.
We’ll discuss your test results with you. We’ll also talk about the potential risks and benefits of the procedure. We give you the information you need to make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you. If you consent to the procedure, we’ll schedule your operation.
Surgery will take place while you’re under general anesthesia and will be done with a minimally invasive approach. Minimally invasive surgery uses smaller incisions than open surgery and a video camera that allows us to see inside your chest.
In some cases, we can perform the procedure using an incisionless approach called bronchoscopy. We will reach your lungs through a thin, flexible tube that’s guided through your nose or mouth. We pass special devices into the damaged areas of the lung to block them off.
After surgery, you remain in the hospital for several days. We monitor you closely.
After surgery, you’ll take part in our pulmonary rehabilitation program. The program offers education and is designed to increase your fitness so you can be more active.
Meet our team
Experienced surgeons, impressive results
Thoracic surgeons at UW Health have years of experience with LVRS. They work closely with our pulmonologists, pulmonary rehab team and others to provide you with the highest quality care. Together, our team helps most patients achieve good to excellent results.
Trust us for expert care
Lung volume reduction is performed at University Hospital.
At UW Health, we provide a full range of services for conditions affecting your heart and circulatory system. Here, you’ll find expert preventive care, advanced diagnostic tests and innovative treatments.