Emphysema

Emphysema is a disease in which the lungs lose their elasticity and are less able to transfer oxygen to the bloodstream. The condition develops gradually, meaning that patients may experience increasing symptoms, such as shortness of breath during exercise or normal activity.

More than three million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema, which is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. COPD is often underestimated because it’s not diagnosed until it’s already in advanced stages. 

The best way to avoid emphysema and to keep it from getting worse is to stop smoking or not start smoking. It’s also best to avoid being exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke. Other preventive measures include avoiding exposure to industrial dusts and chemicals, as well as indoor and outdoor air pollutants.

A gene, pleomorphic adenoma gene-like 2 (PLAGL2), has also been found to be a contributing factor to emphysema and lung cancer development, which is unrelated to cigarette smoking.

UT Southwestern Medical Center physicians have the expertise and medical resources needed to accurately diagnose and effectively treat emphysema.

Evaluation

A team approach provides patients access to the expertise needed to accurately diagnose and treat their emphysema. UT Southwestern’s pulmonologists will precisely determine the best course of action for patients’ diagnosis and treatment, and offer the most advanced health care options available in a caring and compassionate environment.

Treatment Options

Our emphysema specialists can help patients reduce their symptoms, live more comfortably, and slow or prevent the disease’s progression. Our physicians and researchers advise patients on actions that can reduce symptoms, including smoking cessation. Quitting smoking is the single most important factor in relieving emphysema.

Our specialists may also prescribe a variety of therapies to help patients control their emphysema, which, depending on their condition, may include bronchodilator drugs, antibiotics, exercise, steroids, or surgery.

In severe cases of emphysema, UT Southwestern surgeons can perform lung volume reduction surgery. The surgery involves removing the diseased portions of the lung, allowing the remaining portions of the lungs to function more effectively.

The most severe cases of emphysema may be eligible for lung transplant surgery. Over a recent 30-month period, our lung transplant program was rated the best in the nation for achieving the highest survival rate for one-year post-transplant patients. Since the lung transplant program began in 1990, it has consistently ranked among the top 10 in the United States.