The pros and cons of surgery for emphysema depend on the individual patient, but the primary benefits are that it may help sufferers breathe easier and prolong life in severe cases. Drawbacks vary based on the type of surgery and the severity of the condition, but they can include infection, heart issues, bleeding, and reactions to anesthesia. Surgery is also expensive, invasive, and requires a longer recovery period than many other treatments.
There are two main types of surgery for emphysema. The first is less invasive and is performed by inserting two or three small incisions in the chest in order to drain fluid from around the lungs. Another, more invasive procedure, is used for the same purpose, but it requires a much larger incision and requires the surgeon to enter the chest cavity. This presents a much higher risk of infection and other complications.
Benefits of surgery for emphysema include easier breathing for patients and prolonged quality of life in those with progressed cases. Fluid buildup can result in the lungs not being able to expand as they should, leading to extreme shortness of breath and difficulty filling the lungs. This can cause pain as well as lead to other health problems, like heart failure. For individuals with extreme cases in which breathing is nearly impossible and those on respirators, surgery may be the only option.
Surgery for emphysema does have risks, however, just like any surgical procedure. Heart failure, infections at the incision site, paralysis, and a long recovery are some of the main drawbacks to having surgery. There is also a slight chance of damage being done to the lungs. Anesthesia carries its own list of potential risk factors, and occasionally patients have severe reactions.
These risks may be different for every patient and generally depend on the overall health of each individual. Those with preexisting conditions are more likely to have serious side effects from surgery than those who are in better health. Since emphysema is caused primarily from smoking, it is more likely that other medical problems will exist in surgery for emphysema than with other surgeries. This is because cigarette smoking can causes cancer of the lungs, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Other potential drawbacks of surgery for emphysema are the price of the procedure, a sometimes extended hospital stay, and pain resulting from the incision. Medication is usually given to both help with pain and prevent infection. Insurance providers may help cover the cost of surgery and any recovery time spent in the hospital, along with medications needed once patients return home. This is not always the case, so each patient should speak directly with his or her insurance carrier.