Penn Lung Center

COPD & Emphysema

Overview

The pulmonary specialists at the Penn Lung Center develop individually tailored treatment plans to help patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) achieve and maintain their best possible quality of life. COPD treatment can include medicines, rehabilitation and surgery.

COPD includes lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis that block airflow and over time, make it increasingly difficult for patients to breathe.

Symptoms of COPD include coughing up large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightening in the chest. COPD can also affect the heart muscles and can cause depression or anxiety.

Patients with COPD may experience flare-ups that require hospitalization and leave them even weaker. COPD is a progressive disease and can become so severe that patients can no longer participate in the activities they once enjoyed.

Advanced Treatment Options for Optimal Results

Penn Medicine has a number of treatment options available for patients with COPD. Penn physicians study COPD, conduct clinical trials and have the latest available knowledge about how to implement treatments to achieve the best results.

Treatment options include:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Medication
  • Surgery, including lung volume reduction
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation therapy
  • Lung transplant

Lung volume reduction surgery removes about a third of the most diseased lung tissue, allowing the diaphragm to return to a more normal position and work effectively again. It also may improve lung elasticity. After surgery, patients spend several months regaining strength as their lungs heal.

The Penn Transplant Institute is currently home to the area's only lung transplant program. Since the program's beginning in 1991, more than 750 successful lung transplants have been performed and the lives of many patients have been dramatically improved.

Penn's physicians are experts in matching the appropriate therapy to each patient.

An Integrated Approach to COPD Management

Radiologists, chest surgeons, lung doctors, advanced practice nurses and respiratory therapists are all accessible and available in one convenient location.

Patients needing a lung transplant are seamlessly transitioned into Penn's Lung Transplant Program.

Evaluating COPD

Patients should bring the following test results and reports to their initial evaluation:

  • Pulmonary function testing
  • Walking tests
  • Chest X-rays and CAT scans
  • Heart studies (such as echocardiograms and catheterization reports)
  • Blood work
  • Other relevant testing

During the initial evaluation, physicians:

  • Make an initial diagnosis or confirm an earlier diagnosis
  • Prescribe the best medicine and, if necessary, prescribe oxygen, pulmonary rehabilitation to increase strength and endurance and smoking cessation therapy
  • Discuss pertinent clinical trials, including minimally invasive procedures for emphysema
  • Evaluate surgical options such as bullectomy, lung volume reduction surgery and lung transplantation

Knowledge Increases Patient Confidence

At the Penn Lung Center, patients are educated about the specifics of COPD, what can be expected in the future and available treatment options. When patients are equipped with this information, they are better able to ask pertinent questions, discuss important issues with their health care team and actively participate in treatment decisions.