Emphysema is a chronic lung condition in which the air sacs of the lungs are destroyed. When this happens, lungs lose some of their elasticity and are unable to empty completely. Emphysema can be caused by smoking or, in rare cases, it can be inherited. The earliest symptom of emphysema may be minor discomfort with breathing during exertion.
Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University School of Medicine is the largest, most comprehensive care provider for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the region. COPD puts 14 million Americans in a daily struggle to literally catch their breath. The disease robs people of the ability to do simple household tasks, exercise or even walk.
Before treatment, patients at the Center first undergo a thorough evaluation that includes exercise testing and sophisticated measures of lung function.
The comprehensive treatment programs include the latest in medication therapy, along with extensive education in all aspects of the disease. Treatments usually include exercise, with the use of oxygen, if needed. A COPD rehabilitation program also is available - even for patients with severe disease - to help maintain lung function.
The medical staff also will help plan treatment for patients traveling from a distance, who want to take their rehabilitation closer to home.
Surgical options include lung transplantation and lung volume reduction. The Washington University physicians at Barnes-Jewish Hospital have completed more than 1,000 lung transplants. The Center is one of the busiest transplant centers in the world, performing 55-60 lung transplants each year. Learn more about lung transplants
Washington University surgeons were the first to perform lung volume reduction surgery to treat COPD, and today they remain national leaders in this procedure. With more than 450 procedures performed, the practice is now accredited as a Center of Excellence by the Joint Commission. Lung volume reduction surgery essentially gives patients’ lungs more “breathing room.” During the procedure, portions of overly distended diseased lung (20-30 percent of each lung) are removed to allow more space for remaining lung to inflate. While not a cure for emphysema, the surgery does afford many patients the opportunity to lead healthier, more active lives. Learn more about lung volume reduction surgery