Emphysema Treatment

Lung damage caused by emphysema cannot be reversed. Emphysema treatment concentrates on halting the progression of emphysema and controlling the symptoms.

COPD and Emphysema - Emphysema Treatment

Quit Smoking

Emphysema patients who smoke should quit as soon as possible. Quitting smoking will restore some lung function, and can sometimes halt the progression of emphysema.

Lung Surgery

The effectiveness of lung surgery as an emphysema treatment is questioned by some authorities. Proponents of lung surgery claim that surgical removal of abnormal lung tissue can improve lung elasticity and make it easier for patients to breathe. Lung surgery is not an option for all patients. For those who meet the criteria, two different forms of lung surgery are available: bullectomy and lung volume reduction surgery.


Bulla are large air sacs in the lungs caused by emphysema damage. Although they are filled with air, bulla do not aid in breathing. Instead, they take up space in the lungs and contain stale, “dead,” air. A bullectomy removes the bulla from the lungs. The aim of a bullectomy is to free up lung space by allowing healthy air sacs to expand into the empty space once occupied by the bulla. This lets healthy air sacs process more oxygen. Clinical investigation of bullectomy procedures is ongoing, as researchers try to determine the effectiveness of this type of lung surgery.

Lung Volume Reduction Surgery

Like a bullectomy, lung volume reduction surgery removes damaged lung tissue from a patient’s lungs. However, this form of lung surgery removes much larger portions of lung tissue. Removal of damaged lung tissue improves the elasticity of the lungs, which may improve lung function.

Nutrition and Emphysema Patients

Emphysema patients are often underweight. Patients with advanced emphysema tire easily, and have weakened muscles. Adequate nutrition is essential to maintain activity levels, perform daily tasks, and facilitate breathing.

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Replacement Therapy

Clinical trials are investigating the possibility that alpha-1 antitrypsin replacement may help patients with emphysema. This possibility is of special interest for patients with inherited alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiencies. Clinical trials are investigating the most effective delivery methods for alpha-1 antitrypsin.

Treatment Strategies for COPD Patients

Emphysema patients who also suffer from chronic bronchitis are said to have COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD cannot be cured, but the progress of the disease can be slowed with treatment. Patients may benefit from the following COPD treatment strategies:

  • annual flu shots
  • breathing exercises
  • bronchodilators
  • pneumonia vaccination
  • lung transplant
  • quitting smoking
  • supplemental oxygen masks.