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Methodist only center in southern United States to perform lung volume reduction surgery

Houston, TX - 8/22/2011

The J.C. Walter Jr. Methodist Transplant Center is the only center in the southern United States approved to perform lung volume reduction surgery, a surgery that cures chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in a certain group of patients.

"This surgery is only effective in patients who have emphysema in the upper part of their lungs, and not for those who have emphysema all over their lungs," said Dr. Harish Seethamraju, director of the lung transplant program. "These are patients who can no longer walk, need oxygen and have a very poor quality of life."

COPD is a condition that makes it hard for a person to breathe and progressively gets worse over time. Smoking is the leading cause of the disease that affects more than 12 million people in the U.S. and it is the nation's fourth leading cause of death. Symptoms include coughing up mucus, shortness of breath, fatigue and wheezing.

"For this surgery, we remove anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of the poorly functioning part of the lung," said Dr. Matthias Loebe, a Methodist lung transplant surgeon. "When we reduce the size of the lung, the remaining lung and muscles are able to work more effectively and help people breathe a lot easier, which of course leads to a much better quality of life."
Methodist took part in the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT) that took a look at the effectiveness of lung volume reduction surgery. The study found that patients were more likely to function better two years after surgery and did not face an increased risk of death because of the disease.

Loebe says another benefit of this surgery is that if the COPD patient has heart problems, which most of them do, the problems can be fixed at the same time as the lung volume reduction surgery.

"This surgery is a great option for people when medication stops working and they are still short of breath," Seethamraju said. "It will help relieve shortness of breath, improve lung function, increase one's energy level, and most of all, allow people to get back to doing normal every day activities without gasping for air."

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