Lung Volume Reduction Surgery Gives Woman Chance to Dance at Son's Wedding

Northwestern Medicine
Pulmonology May 14, 2013
July is a very significant month for Susan Fischer and her family. Her son is getting married and her daughter is expecting her second child. While Fischer can’t wait for all of the excitement to unfold, she has a number of restrictions to deal with on a daily basis. She has severe emphysema, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is an ongoing and progressive disease that damages the lungs and makes breathing difficult. Fischer was determined to not let her condition slow her down during these important family milestones.

“I want to be able to dance at my son’s wedding,” said Fischer, a 65-year-old resident of Arlington Heights, IL. “That is my number one goal.”  

Susan Fischer standing with Northwestern Medicine doctorsFor patients with COPD, even simple tasks such as walking short distances can leave them breathless – an activity as physically demanding as dancing is impossible for many. Determined to make her goal a reality, Fischer was encouraged when Northwestern Medicine pulmonary disease experts recommended a treatment called lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS).  

“Lung volume reduction surgery is a great option for select patients with severe emphysema,” said Malcolm DeCamp, MD, chief of the division of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This is a surgical option to help people with severe emphysema gain a better quality of life and prolong life.”  

LVRS is a procedure that removes approximately 20 to 35 percent of the lungs that are damaged by emphysema, allowing the remaining, relatively good lung to expand and work better. Researchers believe that by surgically removing functionally useless tissue, air will be able to move in and out of the remaining lung more quickly. The operation can be done through either a breast bone incision or smaller chest incisions using video-assisted thoracic surgical techniques.  
“Susan was the ideal candidate for lung volume reduction surgery,” said Ravi Kalhan, MD, director of the asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease program at Northwestern Memorial and assistant professor of medicine at the Feinberg School. “She has severe COPD, but she is also extremely motivated to do whatever it takes to improve her quality of life.”  

“I was walking slowly on a treadmill the day after surgery and home in five days,” said Susan. “I could barely walk from the parking lot to the grocery store and was fighting for each breath before having lung volume reduction surgery. I have the best team at Northwestern who puts me at ease and has been with me every step of the way,” Susan said. “I know I’m at the right place.”   For Susan's full story, read the press release.
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