Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a group of lung diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. These diseases make breathing difficult. COPD can make it hard to catch your breath. Because breathing takes such hard work when you have COPD, you can become exhausted.

Overview and Symptoms

Emphysema harms the air sacs and makes the lungs over-inflated. Chronic bronchitis causes the airways to narrow.

You might not notice COPD in its early stages. The disease can develop over a long period of time without causing shortness of breath. If you experience any of these symptoms, smoke, or have a family history of COPD, it is important to talk with your doctor right away:

  • A cough with mucus that does not go away
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness and wheezing
COPD can be diagnosed in many ways.

  • Spirometry, a painless procedure during which you blow into a tube to measure how much air your lungs can hold, and how long it takes to breathe out.
  • Blood tests can help determine if the lungs are working properly.
  • Chest X-rays or CT scans allow doctors to examine detailed images of your lungs.
  • Additional tests may include an echocardiogram (which is an ultrasound test to check heart structure and function); cardiopulmonary exercise testing (a test on a bike or treadmill which can check how well the heart and lungs work together); or a sleep study (to check for COPD-related sleep disturbances).

Specialists in our COPD Clinic review test results in a team case conference, and then together create an individualized treatment plan. The conference includes physicians and specialists from general pulmonology, interventional pulmonology, thoracic (chest) surgery, thoracic radiology, palliative (comfort) care, and pulmonary rehabilitation. Our team approach among different specialists helps ensure precise diagnosis and treatment, and well-coordinated care for you.


Our COPD and Emphysema Clinic provides the latest treatment options for patients with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). BIDMC is the first hospital in Boston to offer two new minimally invasive procedures — endoscopic lung volume reduction coils and endobronchial valves — that do not require a major operation and hold great promise for patients with COPD/emphysema.

The COPD and Emphysema Clinic's full array of treatment options.

The Chest Disease Center

The Chest Disease Center combines a team of highly skilled specialists with state-of-the-art facilities to provide multidisciplinary evaluation, treatment and care to patients who have benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) lung diseases.

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