What is COPD?

During an inhalation, air comes in through the mouth, down the windpipe, and into the lungs through two large tubes (called bronchial tubes). These tubes subdivide many times into increasingly smaller tubes, ending in tiny air sacs (called alveoli). When fresh air comes in, these air sacs inflate like a balloon, transferring the oxygen into the bloodstream. During an exhalation, the air sacs deflate, releasing carbon dioxide.

With COPD, less air flows in and out of the lungs because of one or both of the following problems:

  • Emphysema: Much like an overstretched rubber band, the air sacs can lose their elasticity and no longer fully deflate. Carbon dioxide remains trapped inside, preventing patients from taking a full breath.
  • Chronic bronchitis: The airways can become thick and inflamed, as well as overproduce mucus, causing patients to feel as if they are breathing through a pinched straw.
A Patient’s Perspective
Learn what one patient has to say about the Lourdes Cardiovascular Institute.

  • COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
  • Caused by emphysema (a disease of the lungs air sacs) and/or chronic bronchitis (inflammation of the airways), COPD makes it hard to breathe.
  • Without treatment, it develops slowly, with symptoms worsening over time.

  • Frequent coughing
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness

  • Lifestyle changes and rehabilitation exercises can strengthen your lungs as well as protect them from further damage.
  • Medications can make it easier to breathe.
  • Advanced surgical techniques can remove damaged lung tissue, freeing up healthy lung tissue and allowing the lungs to function more fully.

How We Can Help

Our experienced lung specialists help patients make important lifestyle changes that will protect and strengthen their lungs, as well as prescribe medication that help patients to breathe more easily.

If lifestyle changes and medications are not enough, our specialists may recommend lung volume reduction surgery to remove damaged lung tissue. Once this tissue has been removed, the remaining healthy tissue functions more efficiently, allowing patients to breathe easier again. Our surgeons are experienced in newer, less invasive techniques, including advanced robotics, that allow them to perform this surgery without separating a patient’s breast bone. The result: a safer procedure and a swifter, more comfortable recovery so patients can get back to their usual activities as quickly as possible.