Emphysema patients are breathing easier with Lung Volume Reduction Surgery

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- For people with emphysema, breathing in is hard because the lungs can't expand properly. In this week's Moves in Medicine, we learn about a procedure letting some emphysema patients breathe easier.

When emphysema strikes, the lungs lose their ability to keep air flowing two ways. Damaged air sacs trap old air, keeping fresh, oxygen-rich air from getting in.

Lung Volume Reduction Surgery, or LVRS, is a procedure aimed at relieving that issue.

"The goal is to remove the diseased portion of the lung, in order to allow a less diseased portion of the lung to expand more and help patients breathe better," said Dr. Charles Bakhos, a thoracic surgeon at the Temple Lung Center.

Dr. Bakhos said it's a very strategic surgery.

"We would usually remove the top portion of the lung, about 30%. In general, we try to do the same surgery on both sides at the same time," he said.

Dr. Bakhos uses a minimally invasive technique with small incisions and high-definition cameras.

Success for LVRS depends on carefully selecting the right patients, only about 1 in 10 patients will qualify. Those with high risks, such as advanced age, excess weight, pulmonary hypertension, or extremely severe lung disease, are usually ruled out.

And patients must have stopped smoking.

For some, LVRS can help them avoid a lung transplant. Most feel less shortness of breath after their operation.

"Many patients are able to discontinue their supplemental oxygen following the procedure, and are able to do more activities than they could before surgery, including going for a walk, showering, independently cooking," said physician's assistant Kimberly Muro.

"Many, many patients end up living longer actually from the surgery," said Dr. Bakhos.

Temple was among the pioneers in Lung Volume Reduction surgery 20 years ago and remains one of the few centers accredited to do it.
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