Some COPD patients with very severe symptoms may have a hard time breathing all the time.  In some of these cases, doctors may suggest lung surgery to improve breathing.  Not everyone is a candidate for lung surgery. 

Lung Volume Reduction Surgery (LVRS) is a procedure to help people with severe COPD. LVRS is not a cure for COPD but can improve one's quality of life.  The goal of the surgery is to reduce the size of the lungs by removing about 20-30% of the most diseased lung tissues so that the remaining healthier portion can perform better. LVRS can also allow the diaphragm to return to its normal shape, allowing the patient to breathe more efficiently. The surgery has been shown to help improve breathing ability, lung capacity, and overall quality of life among those who are qualified for it. 

Lung transplants are given to people as a last resort treatment for irreversible lung failure. Lung failure happens when the lungs are damaged and unable to transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide to and away from cells. Sometimes COPD causes the lungs to fail and a lung transplant may be recommended.

Are You a Candidate for Lung Surgery?

Some people with COPD have improved lung function from surgery, but others will not benefit.  Some of the considerations for surgery candidates include:

  • The damage in the lungs must be in an area that is localized (a specific area) and can be removed to make LVRS surgery worthwhile.
  • You must be strong enough to have the surgery
  • You must participate in a pulmonary rehabilitation program
  • You cannot be a current smoker

The decision for surgery is based on the results of many tests.

Unfortunately, the number of needed lung transplants has not kept up pace with the number of available donors. To learn more about becoming an organ donor, visit

For more information about issues related to LVRS and lung transplants, call American Lung Association HelpLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).  Our Lung HelpLine is staffed by experienced Registered Nurses and Registered Respiratory Therapists.