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.

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:

Talk to your doctor to find out if lung surgery is right for you.
  • You must be strong enough to have the surgery.
  • You must participate in a pulmonary rehabilitation program.
  • You cannot be a current smoker.

Some surgical procedures require that the damage in the lungs must be in an area that is localized (a specific area) and can be removed.

The decision for surgery is based on the results of many tests. Talk to your doctor to find out of lung surgery is right for you.

Types of Lung Surgery

There are three types of lung surgery performed to address COPD:

  • Bullectomy is a procedure where doctors remove one or more of the very large bullae from the lungs. BullaeAir pockets in the lungs are large air sacs that form from hundreds of destroyed alveoliVery small air sacs at the end of each bronchiole.. These air spaces can become so large that they interfere with breathing. For some people, surgically removing these air sacs improves breathing.
  • 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 diaphragmThe strong wall of muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. By moving downward, it creates suction in the chest to draw in air and expand the lungs. 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.
  • Bronchoscopic Lung Volume Reduction Surgery works by placing one way valves in the airways leading to the diseased parts of the lung. The valve lets air out but not in. This collapses a certain segment of the lung and achieves a similar result to lung volume reduction surgery.

Lung Transplants

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.

Unfortunately, the number of people waiting for a lung transplant is greater than 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 our Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872).

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