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Lung volume reduction surgery

Medically reviewed on Jan 17, 2018


Lung volume reduction surgery is used to improve breathing in some people with severe emphysema, a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

During surgery, small wedges of damaged lung tissue are removed to allow the remaining tissue to function better. After surgery, people often have less shortness of breath, have better quality of life and are better able to exercise.

Why it's done

During lung volume reduction surgery, a chest (thoracic) surgeon removes small wedges of damaged lung tissue, usually about 20 to 30 percent of each lung, to allow the remaining tissue to function better. As a result, the diaphragm contracts and relaxes more effectively and efficiently, so you can breathe more easily.

To determine whether you might benefit from lung volume reduction surgery, your doctor may recommend the following:

  • Imaging and physiological evaluation, including tests of your heart and lung function, exercise tests, and a computerized tomography (CT) scan of your lungs to assess the severity and location of the emphysema
  • Initiation of pulmonary rehabilitation, a program that empowers people to take care of themselves by increasing awareness of their physical function and emotions


Studies have shown that lung volume reduction surgery improves exercise capacity, lung function and quality of life in select candidates when compared with people who were treated nonsurgically.

People who are born with an inherited form of emphysema, called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency-related emphysema, are not likely to benefit from lung volume reduction surgery. A lung transplant may be a better treatment option than lung volume reduction surgery for these individuals.

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