The concept of emphysema combines increased airiness and reduced mobility of the lung tissue.

Most often all lungs are affected (diffuse emphysema). Sometimes swollen areas of the lungs are combined with normal lung tissue. Such areas are called bullae, and bullous emphysema.

What does it happen from?

The main root cause of the disease is chronic bronchitis. In fact, the result of chronic bronchitis is the formation of emphysema.

In the development of bullous emphysema, an important role is played by hereditary factors, as well as past lung diseases (tuberculosis, etc.).

Smoking, air pollution with various dust particles also contribute to the development of the disease.

What’s happening?

As a result of a long-term inflammatory process (chronic bronchitis), the lung tissue loses its ability to dynamically stretch and collapse in accordance with breathing, which leads to overextension of the lungs and an increase in the amount of air in them. Such excess air is not involved in breathing and overstretched lung tissue does not work fully.


The main complaint of patients with emphysema is shortness of breath, which increases significantly with physical exertion. If the root cause of the disease is heredity, then shortness of breath appears already at a young age.

Without treatment, emphysema progresses, which leads to disruption of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

Bullous emphysema can proceed imperceptibly, manifesting itself as a complication of the development of pneumothorax (rupture of the bulla and forcing air into the chest), requiring urgent surgical treatment.


In addition to examination, for the diagnosis of emphysema, the following are used:

  • x-ray examination of the lungs is characterized by swelling of the lung tissue and an increase in its airiness;
  • computed tomography of the lungs is more often used to diagnose and determine the exact location of the bullae;
  • examination of the function of external respiration – allows you to identify the degree of impaired lung function.


The main methods of treating emphysema are oxygen therapy (inhalation of air with a high content of oxygen) and breathing exercises. These methods allow you to stop the development of disorders of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

With bullous emphysema, surgical treatment is recommended. The essence of the treatment is the removal of the bulla. Such operations can be performed both using a classical approach with opening the chest, and endoscopically (using special instruments, through chest punctures). Endoscopic removal of the bullae is preferable: the recovery period after the operation is much shorter, there is no extensive scar on the chest.

Timely removal of the bullae prevents the development of such a formidable complication as pneumothorax – the ingress of air into the chest due to the rupture of the bulla.

If the cause of emphysema is chronic bronchitis, an important role is played by the prevention of the development of exacerbations of bronchitis. With the development of an exacerbation, its rational treatment under the supervision of a physician, including the use of antibiotics.

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