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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) weakens
the structure of the lung and may also damage the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in
the lung. When these air sacs break down, larger airspaces known as bullae are
Bullae sometimes can become so large that they interfere with
breathing and may cause complications:
For some people, surgically removing the enlarged air sacs—known as
a bullectomy—makes breathing easier. But few people are considered good
candidates for a bullectomy. It may work best for people with COPD who are
young, have large bullae that are grouped in just one area of the lung, and do
not have severe blockage in their airways. A
bullectomy may be considered if the bullae:
Bullectomy may make the lungs work better so more oxygen gets into
If there are many bullae spread throughout the lungs, surgery is not
likely to be helpful. In this case, other areas of the lung often become
damaged after the surgery. The best surgical results happen when there is
only one bulla or only a few that are all clustered in one area.
Long-term follow-up studies have begun to show that within 3 to 5
years after surgery, lung function deteriorates to the level it was before
The decision about whether to do the surgery is difficult and
usually is based on the doctor's experience and the person's overall
Bullae can be removed using a laser. But this method has not been
found to have an advantage over traditional surgery.
Other Works Consulted
Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (2016). Global strategy for diagnosis, management, and prevention of COPD – 2016. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. http://goldcopd.org/gold-reports. Accessed June 23, 2016.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerDavid C. Stuesse, MD - Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery
Current as ofAugust 10, 2016
Current as of:
August 10, 2016
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & David C. Stuesse, MD - Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery
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