Thoracic Surgery

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Diseases & Conditions


At Boston Medical Center we pride ourselves on the ability to diagnose and treat a wide variety of thoracic conditions and symptoms, including emphysema. We do so in an environment of caring and compassion, where our priority is the well-being of you and your family.

What is Emphysema?

Emphysema is a progressive lung disease in which the small air sacs and airways in the lungs become damaged. More specifically, the walls between these air sacs (alveoli) lose their ability to stretch, which causes weakening and breakage. This gradual damage obstructs air flow so that exhaling air is difficult; breathing becomes a frustrating and painful process. Emphysema is more common in men than women, and occurs more frequently in people older than age 45.

Diagnostic Procedures

What are its Symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

What Causes Emphysema?

The most common cause of emphysema is smoking, particularly cigarette smoking. Tobacco can paralyze the tiny hairs (called cilia) that line bronchial tubes and usually sweep irritants and germs out of airways.

Other risk factors include:

How is Emphysema Diagnosed?

One or more of the following tools may be used to diagnose emphysema:

How is Emphysema Treated?

Treatment methods vary based on your unique situation, but the most important treatment typically is quitting smoking. Using a combination of cessation techniques—such as support groups, nicotine patches or replacement drugs, counseling and relapse prevention—usually brings about the most positive results.

Other treatments include:

Pulmonary rehabilitation is often a key part of treatment, too. It includes education, exercise training and behavioral intervention to help restore you to a better level of function and comfort.

Diseases & Conditions
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Patient Information


Call: 617.638.5600
Fax: 617.638.7382

Boston Medical Center
Center for Thoracic Surgery
Moakley Building
830 Harrison Avenue, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02118

Refer a Patient

Call: 617.638.5600
Fax: 617.638.7382

Administrative Office

88 East Newton Street
Robinson B-402
Boston, MA 02118
Call: 617.638.5600
Fax: 617.638.7382

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