Managing COPD: Lung Volume Reduction Surgery

Lung volume reduction surgery is an operation that removes parts of the lungs that are not working properly. By removing the most damaged parts of the lungs that are unable to efficiently process oxygen, the rest of the lungs and the surrounding muscles are able to work more efficiently.

People who have COPD with severe lung damage may be candidates for lung volume reduction surgery.

Candidates for surgery

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently approved coverage for LVRS for selected patients. In order to qualify for Medicare coverage, there are strict requirements, including:
  • having a history of emphysema
  • not smoking for four months prior to and throughout the evaluation process
  • not having a previous lung volume reduction surgery
  • not having a previous coronary artery bypass or certain heart conditions
  • undergoing a series of pre-surgical tests
  • participating in pulmonary rehabilitation therapy both before and after surgery.

Options for surgery

Lung volume reduction surgery can be done with a large incision that exposes the whole lung, which involves more healing time. The surgery can also be done via video-assisted thoroscopy, which means the surgeon can perform surgery while viewing the lungs on a video screen. This involves making a series of small incisions in the chest, which allow the surgeon to insert a small camera and the instruments needed to perform the surgery.

Risks of surgery

As with any surgery, there are risks involved in lung volume reduction surgery, and not everyone is eligible for the procedure.

Nationwide, between 6 and 10 percent of people who have this surgery die from complications with the procedure. It is considered one of the highest risk surgical procedures.

The most common problem with the surgery is that air can leak from the lungs as they loosen or stretch. If too much air leaks into the chest cavity, it can cause a lung to collapse. This can be prevented with careful monitoring and early detection. Other complications include pneumonia, infection and stroke.

To reduce the number of deaths caused by the procedure, health care providers have better screening methods to determine who is a good candidate for the surgery. To find out if you qualify for lung volume reduction surgery, contact a specialist for a full evaluation. 


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