Emphysema (Lung Condition) (cont.)

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Pulmonary rehabilitation for emphysema

Pulmonary rehabilitation involves methods to improve the patient's quality of life by keeping airways open and preventing or reducing secondary complications such as infections and recurrent respiratory symptoms. Pulmonary rehabilitation involves input from doctors and nurses, dietitians, respiratory therapists, exercise physiologists, and many others. The goal of pulmonary rehabilitation is to educate the patient and family about the disease process, encourage routine exercise increasing in graded increments, smoking cessation, medications and medical management, respiratory and chest physiotherapy, and exercises to improve breathing. In addition, the program should offer psychological and social support for the patient. Pulmonary rehabilitation can teach patients how better to control their disease and live a more vibrant and enjoyable life.

Surgery for emphysema

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Bullectomy, the removal of bullae (thin-walled air – filled areas that may compress normal lung tissue) is one method to reduce some of the symptoms of emphysema/COPD.

Lung volume reduction surgery is another surgical technique. It may be an option for patients with severe emphysema symptoms that do not respond to attempts at medical therapy. In this technique, about 20% to 30% of tissue from both lungs is removed; the area removed is usually the lung tissue sections that have minimal or no function.

Finally, lung transplantation is a possibility for certain selected patients. Patients with COPD/emphysema are the largest category of patients that undergo lung transplantation.

What are the stages of emphysema?

In general, there are four stages of emphysema; they are as follows:

Stage I: mild obstruction; treatment is with short-acting bronchodilators and reduction of risk factors

Stage II: moderate obstruction; risk reduction, long-acting bronchodilators, short-acting bronchodilator as needed and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation

Stage III: severe obstruction; risk reduction, short and long-acting bronchodilators, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, and inhaled glucocorticoids as needed

Stage IV: very severe obstruction and/or evidence of chronic respiratory failure, all the above for stage III, and likely long-term oxygen therapy and consideration of surgical options section.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/16/2014

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