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Emphysema is a long-term lung disease that is most commonly caused by smoking. It is part of a group of lung diseases called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emphysema damages the alveoli (air sacs) in your lungs. This makes it hard for your lungs to send oxygen to the rest of your body.

The Lungs


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Heart monitor:

This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin to help the machine record your heart's electrical activity.


Medicines may be given to open your airways and decrease swelling. You may also be given medicines to treat a bacterial infection.


  • Blood tests are done to measure the amount of oxygen, acids, and carbon dioxide your blood contains. This is also called an ABG test.
  • A chest x-ray is a picture of your lungs and heart. Healthcare providers use the x-ray to look for damage to your lungs.
  • Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are a group of tests that measure how well your lungs take in and release oxygen.
  • A sputum sample is collected in a cup when you cough. It is sent to a lab to check for a lung infection.
  • Bronchoscopy: This is a procedure to look inside your airway and learn the cause of your airway or lung condition. A bronchoscope (thin tube with a light) is inserted into your mouth and moved down your throat to your airway. You may be given medicine to numb your throat and help you relax during the procedure. Tissue and fluid may be collected from your airway or lungs to be tested.


Your treatment may change if your illness is not controlled. This is often decided after you have tests. You may have some of the following treatments together:

  • Extra oxygen may be needed, if you have severe emphysema. You breathe the oxygen through a face mask or a nasal cannula.
  • Surgery maybe needed if you have severe emphysema and all other treatments have failed. A lung reduction is when part of your damaged lung is removed to help you breathe better. A lung transplant is when your lung is replaced with a lung from a donor. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about emphysema surgery.
  • Noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation, or NPPV, may be used to help you breathe. A machine helps your lungs fill with air by using a mask or a mouthpiece. If a mask is used, it may go over your nose and mouth, or just your nose. Extra oxygen may be given to you through the machine also.
  • A ventilator is a machine that gives you oxygen and breathes for you when you cannot breathe well on your own. An endotracheal (ET) tube is put into your mouth or nose and attached to the ventilator. You may need a trach if an ET tube cannot be placed. A trach is a tube put through an incision and into your windpipe.


  • Emphysema increases your risk of lung infections. One or both of your lungs can collapse. You are at greater risk of lung cancer. Severe emphysema can lead to heart disease. Your heart has to work harder because of the damage to your lungs. You may have chest pain or high blood pressure. You can have a heart attack. This can be life-threatening.
  • Lack of oxygen may cause damage to your organs, such as your heart or kidneys. You may develop anemia (not enough red blood cells) or glaucoma (an eye disease). You are at greater risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones) and broken bones.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Emphysema (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference Guides (External)

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.