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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) (cont.)

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What other supplemental therapies help treat COPD complications and symptoms?

Other supplementary therapies such as treatment with antibiotics to reduce pathogen (viral, fungal, bacterial) damage to lung tissue, mucolytic agents to help unblock mucus-clogged airways, or oxygenation therapies to increase the available oxygen to lung tissues may also reduce the symptoms of COPD.

In some people oxygen therapy will increase his/her life expectancy, and improve the quality of life. This is especially true with people with COPD who have chronically low oxygen levels in the blood. It may also help exercise endurance. Oxygen delivery systems are now easily portable and have reduced costs compared to earlier designs.

Yoga may be another form of beneficial exercise that helps with breathing efficiency and breathing muscle control.

What surgery is available to treat COPD?

There are three types of surgery generally available to treat certain types of patients with COPD that include

  1. Bullectomy
  2. Lung volume reduction surgery
  3. Lung transplant surgery

Surgery may not be available or desirable for many people with COPD.

  • Bullectomy surgery is the removal of giant bullae. Air-filled spaces usually located in the lung periphery that occupy lung space most often in people with emphysema are termed bullae. Giant bullae may occupy over 33% of the lung tissue, compress adjacent lung tissue, and reduce blood flow and ventilation to healthy tissue. Surgical removal can allow compressed lung tissue that is still functional to expand.
  • Lung volume reduction surgery is removal of lung tissue that has been most damaged by tobacco smoking, usually the 20% to 30% of lung tissue located in the upper part of each lung. This procedure is not done often; it is usually done on people who have severe emphysema and marked hyperinflation of the airways and air spaces.
  • Lung transplantation is surgical therapy for people with advanced lung disease. People with COPD are the largest single category of people who undergo lung transplantation. In general, these people with COPD usually are at COPD stage three or four with severe symptoms and generally, without transplantation, have a life expectancy of about two years or less.

When to Seek Medical Care for COPD

A person should see their doctor if they experience any of the signs and symptoms of COPD and are members of a high-risk group for developing COPD, such as people who smoke.

In general, patients who notice an increasing shortness of breath that wasn't present recently, especially with any minor exertion should make an appointment to see their doctor. People already diagnosed with COPD who notice an increase in symptoms or have emphysema or chronic bronchitis that worsen should also see their doctor quickly.

Can COPD be prevented?

Except for COPD due to genetic problems, this health condition can be prevented in many people by simply never using tobacco products.

Other preventive measures include

  • Avoiding wood, oil, and coal-burning fumes
  • Limiting one's exposure to lung irritants such as air pollutants
  • Receiving recommended vaccines to avoid infections (for example, the flu) can help reduce lung damage and the COPD symptoms that accompany lung damage.

What is the prognosis for a person with COPD?

  • For people with mild COPD (stage I) the prognosis is very good and they may have a relatively normal life expectancy but this decreases as the severity of staging increases.
  • People with COPD who are admitted to an ICU have an estimated death rate of about 24% and this rate can double for people over age 65.
  • The average life expectancy of a COPD patient who undergoes a lung transplant is about five years.
  • People who have COPD and continue to smoke, have a rapid decline in FEV1, who develop severe hypoxemia, develop right-sided heart failure and/or have poor ability to do daily functions usually have a poor prognosis.

Which types of doctors treat COPD?

  • COPD is a long-term disease that can be progressive, so along with the patient's primary care physician, a pulmonologist specialist who treats lung disease is consulted to manage COPD symptoms with medications and other diagnostic tests. In addition, pulmonary rehabilitation specialists that can help with teaching the patient breathing exercises, physical and muscle strengthening along with nutritional counseling can help reduce COPD symptoms.
  • Depression and anxiety are common problems in individuals with COPD so having a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or psychologist on the patient's medical team can provide treatment for symptoms of depression or anxiety, provide counseling for the patient and/or family members, and help with setting up support networks.
  • Other medical professionals such as surgical specialists may be consulted if the patient qualifies for a lung transplant or requires lung reduction surgery for severe emphysema or needs other lung surgery.
  • In emergency situations, patients will COPD may be treated by emergency medicine physicians or medical critical care doctors (intensivists).
  • Your physician may suggest consultation with individuals to help you stop smoking, a common problem for people with COPD.


Kleinschmidt, P. "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Emphysema in Emergency Medicine." Medscape. Jun 06, 2014

Mosenifar, Z. "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)." Medscape. Updated Oct 30, 2014.

American Lung Association. "COPD."

American Cancer Society. "Prescription drugs to help you quit smoking." Updated Feb 06, 2014

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/18/2017


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