Emphysema belongs to a larger disease group known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and it is generally accepted that most patients have both conditions. Hence, COPD is commonly referenced when referring to emphysema.
In healthy patients, lung tissue is normally spongy and elastic, containing hundreds of millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli. These air sacs are responsible for the absorption of oxygen and removal of carbon dioxide from the body. In emphysema patients, these tiny air sacs are destroyed and the attachments holding the airways open are broken down. As a result, the lung tissue becomes stretched and much larger, causing it to lose its sponge-like characteristics and the ability to function normally.
Emphysema patients experience progressive breathlessness which makes breathing a constant challenge and can lead to debilitating decreases in quality of life.
- Inhaling: Diseased lungs are hyperinflated and they take up extra space within the chest, leaving less room to breathe. This makes it difficult to expand any further when breathing in.
- Exhaling: With hyperinflation, lungs cannot completely contract, which traps air in the lungs
This shortness of breath limits the patient’s ability to participate in physical activities.
Therefore, a procedure to address these causes can have a significant impact on the patient’s lung function and ability to breathe more normally.