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Emphysema is an advanced form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Doctors estimate that more than 24 million people in the United States have emphysema or another form of COPD.

This progressive, debilitating disease, is characterized by irreversible destruction of air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, which decreases air flow. This progressive destruction makes it difficult to breathe, making even simple daily activities a challenge.

The most common symptom of emphysema is a chronic cough. Additional symptoms can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent lung infections
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Fatigue

The most common cause of emphysema is cigarette smoking. Quitting smoking can help prevent you from getting the disease. If you already have emphysema, not smoking might keep it from getting worse.

Emphysema Treatment

While COPD and emphysema are not curable, there are treatments that can help you manage the disease. Treatment for emphysema varies based on your symptoms, but often begins with medication management including inhalers and medications to manage symptoms.

As the disease progresses, oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation may be prescribed. Once medical therapy has achieved maximum benefit, the remaining options for treatment have been limited to surgical lung volume reduction or lung transplantation, until recently.

Bronchoscopic Lung Volume Reduction (BLVR) for Emphysema

BLVR, which uses small endobronchial valves, is a new, minimally invasive treatment option that has shown to greatly improve quality of life for patients with severe emphysema.

Patients who have undergone this procedure experience benefits, including:

  • Ability to walk longer distances
  • Increased energy
  • Increased lung function
  • Less shortness of breath
  • Return to activities that were limited previously

BLVR is only available at select centers across the United States, including Froedtert Hospital.

How BLVR Works

During this minimally invasive procedure, a physician places tiny valves in the airways to block diseased parts of the lungs to reduce hyperinflation. This helps the healthier parts of the lungs to expand and lifts pressure off the diaphragm, decreasing shortness of breath and making breathing easier. Patients are under general anesthesia for the whole procedure, which generally takes 30 to 60 minutes.

After the placement of endobronchial valves, most patients will stay at in the hospital for three nights for observation.

If you would like to talk with our care team to determine if you may be a candidate for BLVR, call 414-805-3666. If you are a physician with a patient who may be a candidate for BLVR or you would like more information, please call 414-805-4700.


Virtual Visits Are Available

Safe and convenient virtual visits by video let you get the care you need via a mobile device, tablet or computer wherever you are. We'll assess your condition and develop a treatment plan right away. To schedule a virtual visit, call 414-805-3666.

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Recognized as High Performing by U.S. News & World Report

Froedtert Hospital, Froedtert Menomonee Falls Hospital and Froedtert West Bend Hospital are recognized by U.S. News & World Report as high performing in pulmonology and lung surgery. Froedtert Hospital and Froedtert Menomonee Falls Hospital are also recognized for COPD treatment.

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