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Surgical Treatments

Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 11:30

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Surgical treatments for emphysema remain experimental and are not covered by insurance. Most people with emphysema are not candidates for surgery.

Two types of surgery for people with emphysema are:

Lung Reduction

A surgical procedure called lung reduction may improve symptoms for people with certain types of emphysema. During the procedure, part of the lung is cut out, giving healthy lung tissue more room to expand.

Lung reduction may eliminate the need for supplemental oxygen and make it much easier for the person to breathe. Early studies show that it reduces the volume of the over-inflated lungs. This improves the ability of the lung and chest wall to spring back during exhalation. This more-elastic lung appears to be the biggest reason that emphysema sufferers experience relief.

Need To Know:

The National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT) is a large study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and other federal organizations. The purpose is to study the effectiveness of lung reduction surgery in the treatment of emphysema.

The study was expected to include about 2,500 patients. It began in 1997 and was scheduled to conclude in late 2002. The goal is to provide definitive answers to questions such as:

  • What are the benefits and risks of lung reduction surgery, as compared with good medical therapy alone?
  • How long do any benefits last?
  • Does the surgery benefit some people more than others?

Lung Transplantation

Lung transplant surgery is another treatment that may help a small number of emphysema sufferers. A lung transplant is a complex procedure that carries substantial risk of complications. This type of surgery is performed only at major hospitals and medical centers.

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