What is emphysema?

Emphysema is a lung disease in which the walls between the tiny air sacs in the lungs are damaged. It is progressive, which means it gets worse over time.

The lungs lose their ability to expand and shrink back, and this makes exhaling very difficult. Air is trapped in the overinflated lungs. Also, the diseased tissue compresses healthy lung tissue and flattens the diaphragm (the muscle under the lungs) so it cannot help with breathing.

What causes emphysema?

Smoking is responsible for 80-90 percent of all chronic lung diseases such as emphysema.

What happens during LVRS surgery?

LVRS reduces the size of the lung so the diaphragm can relax and move up and down with breathing. This allows compressed lung tissue to re-expand, so less air is trapped and you can exhale.

During LVRS, an incision is made down the middle of the chest or on the side of the chest. The type of incision depends on the type of emphysema. You are put to sleep, and the surgery takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. A piece of equipment called a stapler will be used to seal off and remove diseased air sacs. One to two chest tubes will be inserted to remove air which may accumulate in your chest after surgery. The tubes will remain in place for several days after surgery.

How long will I be in the hospital?

After surgery is over, you will be sent to the intensive or intermediate care unit overnight and then to a regular hospital unit for 10 to 14 days.

Air is removed by the chest tube that is left in after surgery until the air leak has sealed. Once the leak has sealed, the tube is taken out. Most patients can go home shortly after the chest tube is removed. While you recover in the hospital, you will be encouraged to walk and perform some rehabilitative exercises even while the chest tube is in place.

What are the risks of this surgery?

Anyone who undergoes surgery is at risk for complications. Patients with emphysema are at a higher risk due to their lung condition. After surgery, patients are at greater risk of pneumonia than patients without emphysema.

Do I qualify for the surgery?

You must be smoke-free for at least four months to qualify for surgery. If you smoke and plan to stop, call your physician’s office six weeks after you have stopped smoking to plan your evaluation for surgery.

There are several tests which must be done before surgery to determine if your emphysema will benefit from surgery. All tests will be evaluated by our staff. You will receive instructions for both before and after surgery.

If you want to stay overnight at a nearby hotel for the pre-surgery tests, our staff can help you find a place to stay.

What happens after I go home from the hospital?

You must participate in an exercise program. Exercise will give you the most benefit from your surgery. We also ask that you let us monitor your progress to keep you as safe and healthy as possible.

Is LVRS covered under my insurance?

Many, but not all, insurance companies cover this procedure. Check with your insurance provider to see what is covered, and call them before you schedule your surgery. We can help you obtain pre-admission authorization from your insurance carrier before surgery if you need it.

If you have Medicare, call our office to discuss current coverage.