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Respiratory Health 2021

Severe COPD and emphysema: when breathing becomes hard work

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Scott Lawson

Country Manager UK, Pulmonx

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is the second most common lung disease in the UK. Emphysema is a severe form of COPD. Both conditions can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life.

According to GOLD (Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Diseases), the condition is usually caused by pollutants that get into the lungs, initially blocking (obstructing) the airways as well as causing chronic inflammation. Smoking is the main cause of COPD.

People who suffer from emphysema live with severe shortness of breath that often prevents them from doing simple daily activities without pausing to catch their breath or resting. Emphysema cannot be cured; however, treatment may help reduce symptoms, improve quality of life and slow progression of the disease.1

A patient story – “Getting back to being happy-go-lucky”:

Patricia was diagnosed with COPD in 2004 and it affected everything. Every day was a challenge. After the disease progressed and medication no longer helped, she consulted with her doctor, who did tests to identify further treatment options to improve her quality of life.

It turned out she was a suitable candidate for endobronchial valve treatment, a minimally invasive treatment for patients with severe emphysema that is available on the NHS.2 How does her life look like after the procedure? “My life after the treatment completely changed. Recovery was swift and I was able to be my busy self again. I could go into the garden and do weeding. I could walk around the block. I was able to go swimming. I could go up and down stairs again.”

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“When Patricia was referred to us for further testing, she had large amounts of trapped air in her lungs and was very breathless despite her inhaler medication”, says Dr Richard Barraclough from Wythenshawe Hospital. “We are very happy for Patricia that her quality of life improved so tremendously after treatment. This treatment is not for everybody, but works very well in a clearly defined subgroup of patients. If you are breathless despite the use of inhalers and have been diagnosed with severe COPD/emphysema, speak with your GP or respiratory doctor to see if you are eligible and can be referred to a treatment centre for consideration of endobronchial valve treatment.”

Do you want to find out more about severe COPD/emphysema – visit

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[1] Criner G et al. Am J Resp Crit Care Med 2018; 198(9): 1151-1164.

Results from case studies are not necessarily predictive of results in other cases. Results in other cases may vary.
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