Background: Lung volume reduction surgery has shown early promise as a palliative therapy in severe emphysema. Selection of potential candidates has been based on certain functional and anatomic criteria, and a variety of operative contraindications have been proposed.
Methods: Over 15 months, we performed lung volume reduction surgery in 85 patients selected on the basis of severe hyperinflation with air trapping, diaphragmatic dysfunction, and disease heterogeneity. Patients were not excluded on the basis of severe hypercapnia, steroid dependence, profound pulmonary dysfunction, or inability to complete preoperative rehabilitation.
Results: We observed significant improvements in pulmonary function, exercise capacity, and dyspnea, with an acceptable 30-day perioperative mortality of 7% and actuarial survival of 90% and 83% at 6 and 12 months, respectively. In each "high-risk" group, perioperative mortality, actuarial survival to 1 year, and functional results were equivalent, and in some cases superior, to those in the corresponding "low-risk" patients.
Conclusions: Severe hypercapnia, steroid dependence, profound pulmonary dysfunction, and inability to complete preoperative rehabilitation do not preclude successful lung volume reduction surgery and should not be regarded as absolute exclusionary criteria.