The treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a major cause of disability and premature death for millions affected, now has renewed hope as a result of clinical trials performed by researchers at Imperial College London. The study, “Surgical approaches for lung volume reduction in emphysema” which was published in the April issue of Clinical Medicine, suggests that lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) could reduce breathlessness and improve exercise capacity and survival for patients who have severe emphysema restricted to one part of the lung.
During LVRS, surgeons remove the most damaged area of the lung enabling the remaining parts of the lung to work more effectively.
The study, which reviewed patient outcomes from 2000 to 2012, showed that in a series of 81 patients who had undergone the procedure there were no deaths and only six percent were still in the hospital one month after the operation. Despite the benefits, historical concerns about the risks associated with LVRS have limited the number of procedures.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Nicholas Hopkinson from Imperial's National Heart and Lung Institute, supports this evidence stating that “these results suggest that concerns about the risks of surgery have been exaggerated and doctors looking after patients with COPD should be encouraged to identify people eligible for this procedure.”
Dr. Hopkinson also insists that based on evidence found “there are thousands more people with lung disease in the UK who could profit from this approach.”
Other treatments that have been found to aid in the treatment of COPD include stopping smoking, exercise programs and inhaled medications. However, many people with the condition remain extremely breathless.