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Northwestern Medicine Surgeons Perform New Lung Volume Reduction Surgery
Date:12/2/2013

is the third leading cause of death in the United States, only behind heart disease and cancer; 12 million Americans are diagnosed with COPD. Currently, the only studied interventions that prolong life for patients with severe COPD are supplemental oxygen in people with low oxygen levels and LVRS in appropriately selected individuals. For patients like Fisher even simple tasks such as walking short distances can leave them breathless – an activity as physically demanding as dancing is impossible for many.   

"Before this procedure, every single day was difficult," Fischer said. "If it was too windy I couldn't go outside. I had to take my oxygen everywhere; I even had to wear it in the shower. But now, I don't get as tired. I'm not as breathless.  I had a whole weekend where I didn't have to use oxygen."

Despite making a major difference for patients suffering from COPD, lung volume reduction surgery isn't done very often in the United States, said Ravi Kalhan, MD, director of the asthma and COPD program at Northwestern Memorial.

"Although there is sometimes a perception that we have limited treatment options for COPD, the ones we do have, including inhaled medications, programs of rehabilitative exercise, and in appropriately selected patients LVRS can make a huge difference in a person's quality of life," said Kalhan, who is also an associate professor of medicine at the Feinberg School. "Susan was the ideal candidate for lung volume reduction surgery. She has severe COPD, but she is extremely motivated to do whatever it takes to improve her quality of life."

"The most important message to people living with COPD is that this is a treatable condition," Kalhan said. "With continued research, treatment options for these patients will continue to improve."

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