Emphysema (Lung Condition) (cont.)
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
George Schiffman, MD, FCCP
Dr. Schiffman received his B.S. degree with High Honors in biology from Hobart College in 1976. He then moved to Chicago where he studied biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He attended Rush Medical College where he received his M.D. degree in 1982 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California, Irvine.
In this Article
- What is emphysema?
- What are the risk factors for emphysema?
- What causes emphysema?
- What are the signs and symptoms of emphysema?
- How is emphysema diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for emphysema?
- Quitting smoking
- Emphysema medications
- Pulmonary rehabilitation for emphysema
- Surgery for emphysema
- What are the stages of emphysema?
- What is the life expectancy and outlook for someone with emphysema?
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) FAQs
- Find a local Pulmonologist in your town
How is emphysema diagnosed?
After obtaining a history and physical exam, especially noting whether or not the patient is or has been a tobacco smoker, the doctor may recommend several tests.
- Usually the first preliminary test is a chest X-ray that helps distinguish emphysema from other lung problems.
- A computerized tomography (CT) scan may be ordered to provide the doctor with more information. This test allows the physician to see the actual makeup of the lung tissue and visualize the degree of emphysema.
- Additional tests such as lung function spirometry tests that measure how well a person can move air in and out of their lungs is often ordered.
- More elaborate testing determines how well gases diffuse through the lung tissue. This test is called the diffusing capacity test, and is a physiologic test of underlying emphysema in patients with obstructed airflow, as measured by spirometry. In addition, blood taken from an artery can determine how well the patient's blood is being oxygenated by the lungs, and how well carbon dioxide is being removed.
- A non-invasive test of oxygenation is the oximeter. This is a small device usually place on a finger that measures a person's oxygen saturation and pulse.
The diagnosis of emphysema is based on the results of these tests. Often, your primary doctor will refer you to a pulmonary specialist for any additional diagnostic tests and treatments.
What is the treatment for emphysema?
The first treatment for patients with emphysema is smoking cessation if they are currently smoking tobacco. This is a difficult lifestyle change for many patients, and without support from their doctors, family members, and friends; this most important treatment will likely fail. The best way to accomplish this difficult task is outlined in the "quitting smoking" section. In addition, there is pharmacological and surgical therapy available for emphysema patients and these therapies will be discussed in the next sections.
Next: Quitting smoking
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