Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates

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

If you have lung failure, it means your body can’t get enough oxygen from your blood to support your organs. This is a potentially life-threatening situation, but the experienced team at Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates has considerable experience diagnosing and treating lung failure and its causes. 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 to schedule a consultation or book an appointment online.

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Lung Failure Q & A

What is lung failure?

Lung failure is when your lungs aren’t able to transfer oxygen from the air you breathe into your blood.

Millions of little air sacs in your lungs called alveoli fill up with air when you breathe. They extract oxygen from the air and transfer it into your blood. Your blood then travels around your body, delivering oxygen to all your organs and tissues.

As well as extracting oxygen when you breathe, your body expels carbon dioxide. If your lungs fail, your body won’t be able to get rid of carbon dioxide properly, meaning it can build up to toxic levels.

What causes lung failure?

Three conditions most commonly cause lung failure:

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

If you have a disease or suffer an injury that causes damage to your lungs, it can trigger inflammation. Inflammation can cause fluid to gather in the alveoli, preventing them from doing their job. As a result, the oxygen level in your blood drops, and your breathing speeds up.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

COPD affects your ability to breathe out properly. As a result, old air builds up in your lungs and leaves little room for you to breathe in new air. COPD causes wheezing and severe shortness of breath. The three main types of COPD are asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.

Interstitial lung disease

Interstitial lung disease causes chronic inflammation of your lungs that leads to scarring, which is called pulmonary fibrosis. The scarring worsens over time, making it hard to breathe. Interstitial lung disease can eventually cause heart failure as well as lung failure.

How is lung failure treated?

Treating lung failure focuses on increasing the oxygen levels in your blood. You might need to breathe in oxygen through a face mask or go on a ventilator. 

A mechanical ventilator helps to get more air into your lungs while at the same time forcing fluid out of your alveoli. Most patients who have ARDS need to go on a ventilator.

Another way to increase the oxygen levels in your body is with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). ECMO works like an artificial lung. The machine removes your blood and adds oxygen, then returns the oxygen-enriched blood to your body. EMCO also removes carbon dioxide from your blood.

The Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates team use EMCO on patients who have COPD, emphysema, and ARDS.

If you have COPD, interstitial lung disease, or pulmonary fibrosis, you might benefit from lung-volume reduction surgery (LVRS) to remove severely damaged tissue from your lungs.

Find out more about treating lung failure by calling Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates today or book an appointment online.