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Early Intervention: Key to Pulmonary Emphysema Management

Emphysema is a chronic condition in which the air sacs of the upper lungs become damaged or destroyed, making it difficult to breathe. It’s usually accompanied by chronic bronchitis. Both conditions are a subset of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Over time, emphysema causes the lungs lose their ability to absorb oxygen and carry it to the bloodstream. They’re also unable to release carbon dioxide.

The damage is irreversible, so early intervention is key. At University Hospitals, our primary concern is to give each patient the strategies they need to slow down the disease process and manage their emphysema treatment and disease effectively.

Once we determine the extent of lung damage, our pulmonary specialists work with an entire team to develop a treatment plan using the latest equipment, medication and services.

Emphysema Symptoms and Diagnosis

Smoking is the primary cause of emphysema. However, some other causes are environmental, such as exposure to chemical fumes or air pollutants.

In addition to shortness of breath, patients with emphysema may suffer from wheezing, coughing, a tight feeling in the chest, fatigue, difficulty sleeping and a barrel-chested appearance.

To accurately diagnose emphysema, University Hospitals’ pulmonology specialists check how well your lungs are functioning. They may use tests such as the spirometry device, or imaging exams such as X-ray or computed tomography scans.

Specialized Surgery for Advanced Emphysema

For patients that are able to tolerate surgery, University Hospitals provides lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS). In fact, our own University Hospitals lung specialists served on the original team of researchers that developed LVRS.

During this complex procedure, pulmonary surgeons remove damaged lung tissue. That allows the remaining, healthier lung to work more effectively.

Although only a small number of patients are eligible for LVRS, the benefits can be far-reaching: better breathing, improved quality of life and higher survival rates. University Hospitals also offers a prominent pulmonary rehabilitation program for recovery after surgery and improved overall health.

University Hospitals Offers Smoke-free Strategies

Emphysema treatment includes both the resolution of immediate issues, but also lifestyle choices that can improve your overall health. If you have been diagnosed with advanced emphysema, or have any difficulty breathing, it is important to quit smoking.

Smoking not only one of the causes of emphysema, it also aggravates it. While quitting cannot undo existing lung damage, it can slow the disease’s progression, improve quality of life and boost the body’s ability to fight disease.

The smoking cessation team at University Hospitals provides treatment plans to help people quit smoking. We also offer the support they need to maintain a smoke-free lifestyle.

Learn More about Expert Emphysema Care at UH

For more information about emphysema and the expert care by our pulmonary specialists at University Hospitals, contact our team - at a range of convenient locations.