Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates

Thoracic Surgery & Vascular Surgery located in Pomona, NY & Goshen, NY

Emphysema is a common form of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Over 15 million adult Americans suffer from COPD. If you have chronic breathing problems due to emphysema or other forms of COPD, the experienced team at Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates can help. They have considerable experience treating lung conditions like emphysema, including doing advanced lung-volume reduction surgery (LVRS). The practice has offices in Washington Heights, Manhattan, in New York City; Pomona, Goshen, and Fishkill, New York; and Englewood, New Jersey. Call your nearest office today or book an appointment online.

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Emphysema Q & A

What is emphysema?

Emphysema is a type of COPD. It causes lung damage that stops the lungs from getting all the oxygen your body needs when you breathe. Smoking causes more than 80% of emphysema cases.

Emphysema is a progressive disease that damages the walls of your lungs between the air sacs (alveoli). The damage causes your lungs to lose their elasticity, which makes it increasingly hard to breathe out (exhale).

Your lungs can overinflate, so the air gets trapped in them and there’s no room for fresh air to go into your lungs when you inhale. That means you get very short of breath, especially when you do anything physically active. You’re also likely to experience coughing and wheezing.

How is emphysema treated?

Medical treatments can help you manage your emphysema. The most important thing you can do is to stop smoking. Smoking is the primary cause of emphysema. Continuing to smoke after you develop emphysema can quickly make your condition worse.

Other treatments could include:


Bronchodilators are medications that relax the main passageways of your lungs, the bronchi. You can take oral pills or liquid or use a nasal spray.


Steroids are strong anti-inflammatory medications. They might be useful when you’re having an acute attack of emphysema, known as an exacerbation. You shouldn’t take steroids for long periods, though, because of the risk of side effects.

Oxygen therapy

You might benefit from oxygen therapy if you have a resting O2 blood saturation rate of 88% or less.


Weight loss is a common problem for people who have advanced emphysema. One cause is not eating enough, because trying to breathe and eat is so hard when you have emphysema. Another cause is the increase in calories you burn up overworking your lung muscles as you try to breathe.

Pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD

Pulmonary rehabilitation involves taking part in regular physical therapy sessions and exercise. This increases oxygen intake, reduces shortness of breath, and helps keep you healthier.

Is surgery an option for emphysema?

If conservative approaches aren’t producing results, the Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates team are experts in lung-volume reduction surgery (LVRS) for emphysema and COPD.

LVRS involves removing damaged sections of your lung. The remaining, healthier lung tissue works better without the diseased section, allowing you to exhale more effectively.

Your surgeon can do LVRS as open chest surgery (sternotomy). When possible, though, they use a video-assisted minimally invasive technique that requires no large incisions.

To find out more, call Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates today or book an appointment online.