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Treatment for COPD

Our COPD and Emphysema Clinic provides the latest treatment options for patients with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We are the first hospital in Boston to offer two minimally invasive procedures, as part of two research studies, which show great promise for treating advanced COPD/emphysema.

The COPD and Emphysema Clinic’s full array of treatment options include:

Smoking Cessation

stamped out cigaretteQuitting smoking is the single most important step people with COPD can take to improve their health. It is one of the only ways to prolong life for those with chronic lung disease.

We offer individual sessions with pulmonary physicians to:

  • Discuss smoking cessation strategies
  • Initiate medication therapies to aid in smoking cessation
  • Help patients enroll in smoking cessation programs

To make an appointment to discuss smoking cessation, call the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at 617-667-LUNG (5864) and ask to schedule a visit with Dr. Douglas Beach.

Patients and doctors can also obtain free nicotine patches and counseling from a Massachusetts program called Quitworks.

Additional Resources

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Pulmonary Rehabilitation

We offer a comprehensive physical therapy program for people with COPD and other lung diseases whose daily activities are limited because of shortness of breath. Walking and climbing stairs, for example, can be very difficult if you cannot catch your breath.

Our pulmonary rehabilitation program will help you:

  • Learn more efficient breathing strategies during activities such as stair climbing
  • Manage chronic sputum production
  • Begin a supervised exercise program that includes aerobic training such as walking or cycling, along with strength and flexibility exercises
  • Increase endurance to perform daily activities at home and in the community

Covered by most insurances, the program is typically six to eight weeks long with small classes and individualized attention. You will need a physician referral. For more information, please call 617-754-9100.

Please note that if distance prevents you from attending pulmonary rehabilitation at BIDMC, we can make arrangements to provide the rehab in a local institution, with oversight from our BIDMC team.

For additional programs in other locations, please contact your BIDMC physician.

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There are a number of different medications, in different forms, to treat COPD: pills, liquids or inhaled medicine delivered directly to the lungs.

You may need medication on a regular basis or only when you have a flare-up of symptoms (called an exacerbation):

  • Bronchodilators, the backbone of any COPD treatment regimen, open the airways
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines reduce inflammation (swelling) in the lung airways
  • Antibiotics treat lung infections
  • Phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE-4) inhibitors reduce inflammation (swelling) and promote smooth muscle bronchodilatation (relaxing the smooth muscle surrounding the lungs helps widen the airways)

COPD inhaled deviceOur COPD Clinic can review your medicines to be sure you are taking the right type and dose, and advise about any new medications that may be available.

Our clinic will also provide instruction on correct use of inhalers and an “Action Plan” for what steps to take when an exacerbation of chronic bronchitis occurs, including whether antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications are appropriate.

Additional resources from the American College of Chest Physicians:

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Vaccines to guard against flu and pneumonia are also an important treatment step. Immunization can protect against flu and pneumonia, and lessen the risk of a respiratory infection. Respiratory infections can be especially serious for those with COPD. You may also need a booster vaccine for pertussis (whooping cough).

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Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency

There are also medical treatments available if you have alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency. This inherited disorder can lead to lung diseases such as emphysema. AAT is a protein made in the liver that helps protect the lungs and other body organs.

People who have emphysema because of low AAT levels may benefit from infusions (medications delivered intravenously) of the AAT protein derived from human plasma. Over time, these infusions may slow progression of emphysema and hopefully reduce symptoms associated with emphysema.

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Oxygen Therapy

nebulizerWhen your lungs cannot deliver enough oxygen into your blood, then oxygen therapy may be helpful. It may improve breathing and energy, and help people with COPD live longer.

You may need oxygen only for specific activities, or throughout the day. Portable oxygen systems use a facemask or nose prongs (a nasal cannula). Some patients may benefit from a transtracheal oxygen catheter. Doctors insert a small, flexible tube (catheter) into the windpipe to deliver oxygen directly into the lungs.

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Contact Information

COPD and Emphysema Clinic
West Specialties Clinic, Deaconess 1
185 Pilgrim Road
Boston, MA 02215
Phone: 617-632-8060

Why the COPD and Emphysema Clinic at BIDMC?

We are a recognized national and international leader in pulmonary medicine and thoracic surgery, with a long history of introducing endoscopic devices in clinical trials to treat patients with COPD and other lung disorders.

Learn more