Lung volume reduction surgery is used to improve breathing in some people with severe emphysema, a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). During surgery, small wedges of damaged lung tissue are removed to allow the remaining tissue to function better. There is a fairly rigorous process to qualify as a candidate for the surgery. After surgery, people often have less shortness of breath and are better able to exercise.

About lung volume reduction surgery


Mayo Clinic follows a careful process in evaluating treatment options for a person with advanced, severe emphysema. An immediate goal is to determine whether you might benefit from lung volume reduction surgery. But the evaluation is also an opportunity to optimize all aspects of care critical to good quality of life for someone with emphysema, including physical activity, stress reduction, medications, oxygen requirements, smoking cessation or anything else identified by your team of doctors and therapists.

Your evaluation at Mayo will include:

  • An extensive clinical, imaging and physiological evaluation, including, prior to surgery, tests of your heart and lung function, CT scan of your lungs to assess the severity and location of the emphysema, and exercise tests
  • Confirmation of the type of advanced emphysema that benefits most from surgery
  • Initiation of the process of pulmonary rehabilitation, a program that empowers people to take care of themselves and is customized to include any topic relevant to your situation


During lung volume reduction surgery, a chest (thoracic) surgeon removes small wedges of damaged lung tissue, usually about 20 to 30 percent of each lung, to allow the remaining tissue to function better. As a result, the diaphragm contracts and relaxes more effectively and efficiently, so you can breathe more easily. Mayo Clinic surgeons are experienced in performing this surgery either via a large incision (thoracotomy) or through several small incisions using a special scope (video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery).


Once you are discharged from the hospital, Mayo promotes the idea of rehabilitation as a lifelong process. This is a hallmark of the Mayo Clinic experience — creating an environment for you that will promote a healthy lifestyle. Mayo will continue to oversee your care through a rehabilitation center closer to your home. Mayo Clinic works with your hometown doctor to ensure your continuing care is well coordinated.

Improved outcomes

A number of studies have shown that lung volume reduction surgery improves exercise capacity, lung function and quality of life in select candidates when compared with people who were treated nonsurgically.

People who are born with an inherited form of emphysema, called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency-related emphysema, are likely to develop severe emphysema in their 30s and 40s. A lung transplant may be a better treatment option than lung volume reduction surgery for these individuals because of their age.

Jul. 13, 2010