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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) weakens the structure of the lung and may also damage the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lung. When these air sacs break down, larger airspaces known as bullae are formed.
Bullae sometimes can become so large that they interfere with breathing and may cause complications:
For some people, surgically removing the enlarged air sacs—known as a bullectomy—makes breathing easier. But few people are considered good candidates for a bullectomy. It may work best for people with COPD who are young, have large bullae that are grouped in just one area of the lung, and do not have severe blockage in their airways. A bullectomy may be considered if the bullae:
Bullectomy may make the lungs work better so more oxygen gets into the blood.
If there are many bullae spread throughout the lungs, surgery is not likely to be helpful. In this case, other areas of the lung often become damaged after the surgery. The best surgical results happen when there is only one bulla or only a few that are all clustered in one area.
The decision about whether to do the surgery is difficult and usually is based on the doctor's experience and the person's overall condition.
Bullae can be removed using a laser. But this method has not been found to have an advantage over traditional surgery.
Current as of: November 14, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & David C. Stuesse MD - Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery
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