The pulmonary team at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center are experts in the management of COPD and advanced lung disease. In fact, U.S. News & World Report designated our hospital as high performing in both Pulmonology & Lung Surgery and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) for 2020-21.
What is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of chronic, progressive lung diseases that often result in difficulty breathing. In the case of COPD, the normally elastic airways and air sacs in the lungs experience one or several of these problems:
- Less elasticity in the airways and air sacs
- Damage to the walls between air sacs
- Thick and inflamed airway walls
- An increased amount of mucus clogging the airways
What are the risk factors of COPD?
COPD can have various causes, but most of them involve exposing the lungs to harmful irritants. This can include exposure to air pollution, cigarette smoke, dust, fumes, and various chemicals. Other potential causes are a genetic condition called Alpha-1 deficiency and a history of childhood respiratory infection. All of these risks can be exacerbated by old age.
What are the symptoms of COPD?
Initially, symptoms would be hard to detect. But as a progressive disease, COPD’s symptoms gradually worsen. Common signs include an ongoing cough, possibly one that produces a lot of mucus. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing or a whistling sound when breathing, and chest tightness.
As the condition progresses, symptoms that may occur include increased difficulty catching your breath, blue or gray fingernails or lips, a fast heartbeat, a decrease in mental awareness, and a decrease in the effectiveness of treatment. People with COPD will often have colds as well as a higher risk of other infections, like influenza.
What treatments are available for COPD
The first treatment for people with COPD who smoke is to quit. There are also several recommended medications that include:
- Oral and inhaled steroids
- Combination inhalers
Other treatments include lung therapy in the form of either supplemental oxygen or a pulmonary rehabilitation program.
In more severe cases, specialists recommend invasive procedures such as:
- Lung volume reduction surgery to remove damaged lung tissue and promote uninhibited function of the healthy tissue
- Lung transplant in the case of extremely severe breathing problems
- Bullectomy to remove enlarged spaces within the walls of lung air sacs to improve airflow
As the clinical home for Baylor College of Medicine, Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center leads in the advancement of thoracic surgery, including new methods in treating advanced COPD.
We are the only center in Texas approved by CMS to perform lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS). We also offer bronchoscopic lung volume reduction (BLVR) as a potential alternative to LVRS and a less invasive method to achieve lung volume reduction in patients with emphysema and hyperinflation.
If you or a loved one has COPD or has experienced several of the symptoms above, schedule an appointment with one of our pulmonologists today.