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. After surgery, people often have less shortness of breath, have better quality of life and are better able to exercise.

Why it's done

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.

To determine whether you might benefit from lung volume reduction surgery, your doctor may recommend the following:

  • Imaging and physiological evaluation, including tests of your heart and lung function, exercise tests, and a computerized tomography (CT) scan of your lungs to assess the severity and location of the emphysema
  • Initiation of pulmonary rehabilitation, a program that empowers people to take care of themselves by increasing awareness of their physical function and emotions

How you prepare

Before lung volume reduction surgery, your heart and lungs may be tested to see how well they work. You may also have exercise tests and an imaging test of your lungs. You may take part in pulmonary rehabilitation, a program that helps people improve how well they function physically and emotionally.


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 not likely to benefit from lung volume reduction surgery. A lung transplant may be a better treatment option than lung volume reduction surgery for these individuals.

Lung volume reduction surgery care at Mayo Clinic

Nov. 16, 2018
  1. Surgery. American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/diagnosing-and-treating/surgery.html. Accessed Jan. 24, 2017.
  2. Goldman L, et al., eds. Interventional and surgical approaches to lung disease. In: Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 24, 2017.
  3. Hospital rankings by specialty. U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals Rankings, 2016-2017. http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/rankings. Accessed Feb. 9, 2017.
  4. National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT): Evaluation of lung volume reduction surgery for emphysema. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-pro/resources/lung/national-emphysema-treatment-trial. Accessed Jan. 24, 2017.
  5. Martinez FJ. Lung volume reduction surgery in COPD. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 24, 2017.
  6. Benzo R. Lung volume reduction surgery: Nonpharmacological approach. Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology. 2011;24:44.


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