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Severe emphysema can make the simplest movements difficult. The chronic condition causes your lungs to overexpand — a walk across the room might wear you out. Even getting up from a chair can become a struggle.

With severe emphysema and accumulation of excess air in the chest, the lungs become too large for the chest cavity, resulting in shortness of breath with minimal activity.

Removing some of that excess volume, though, can help patients with emphysema breathe much easier and more efficiently.

Lung volume reduction surgery is an innovative procedure that removes parts of the lungs damaged by emphysema, improving blood flow, lung capacity and (most importantly) your quality of life.

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center is a leader in lung volume reduction surgery, or LVRS. Our program was the first in the nation to receive a certification of distinction from The Joint Commission, the group that certifies and accredits health care organizations, and we were one of 17 centers nationwide that participated in a five-year research study that examined the risks, benefits and appropriate selection criteria for lung volume reduction surgery. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also selected Ohio State as a location to provide the procedure.

Am I a good candidate for lung volume reduction surgery?

  • You must be smoke-free for at least four months to be eligible for screening.
  • You cannot have an obese body weight. Your body mass index (BMI) must be below 31.2 for men and 32.4 for women.
  • There are no age restrictions for lung volume reduction surgery.

If you need help quitting smoking or losing weight in order to become eligible for lung volume reduction surgery screening, Ohio State has programs that can help. Contact the Ohio State Ross Heart Hospital Smoking Cessation Clinic at Outpatient Care Upper Arlington, or review our surgical and nonsurgical weight management programs.

What is the screening process for lung volume reduction surgery?

If you meet these initial criteria, you’ll undergo several tests performed at Ohio State to further determine whether you’re a good candidate for lung reduction surgery. These evaluations include:

  • Breathing tests to assess the degree and severity of emphysema
  • Radiology scans to assess the distribution of emphysema
  • Six-minute walk test
  • Exercise tests to assess functional capacity
  • Stress test to evaluate heart function
  • Blood tests

Patients who qualify as a candidate for surgery must also participate in an extensive pulmonary rehabilitation program before and after surgery. Pulmonary rehab would start after a patient is deemed eligible.

What is the lung volume reduction surgery process?

LVRS requires a general anesthetic. After reviewing your tests and meeting with you, the surgeon will use video-assisted thoracic surgery to perform the procedure, which involves the insertion of instruments between the ribs and into the chest with small incisions through the sides of the chest.

About 30% of each lung is removed during the surgery. Major risks include pain, bleeding and infection.

LVRS Recovery and Rehabilitation

You’ll stay at the Ohio State Ross Heart Hospital after surgery. You’ll receive medication to ease your pain and breathing, and pulmonary rehabilitation staff will work with you to help you get out of bed and walk as early as one day after your operation. If your recovery goes well, you can expect to leave the hospital in six to 10 days. You’ll be required to return to pulmonary rehabilitation after discharge and continue with follow-up visits as necessary.

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