European Respiratory Journal vol:13 issue:3 pages:686-96
Lung volume reduction surgery has become an accepted therapeutic option to relieve the symptoms of selected patients with severe emphysema. In a majority of these patients, it causes objective as well as subjective functional improvement. A proper understanding of the physiological determinants underlying these beneficial effects appears very important in order to better select patients for the procedure that is currently largely carried out on an empirical basis. Lung volume reduction surgery has two distinct effects. Firstly, it causes an increased elastic recoil, which at least partially explains the enhanced maximal expiratory flow. Secondly, it is associated with a reduction of hyperinflation which allows for an increase in global inspiratory muscle strength and in diaphragmatic contribution to tidal volume as well as a decrease in the inspiratory elastic load imposed by the chest wall. Taken together, these effects result in a reduced work of breathing and in an enhanced maximal ventilation which both contribute to the increased exercise capacity and reduced dyspnoea after surgery. The improved lung recoil and the reduced hyperinflation after volume reduction surgery were the primary postulates upon which the usual selection criteria for the procedure were based. It is now likely that these are correct. Nevertheless, some patients do not benefit from lung volume reduction surgery and the current literature does not allow for a refinement of the selection process from a physiological point of view. The exact mechanisms underlying the improvement in lung recoil, lung mechanics, and respiratory muscle function remain incompletely understood. Moreover, the effects of lung volume reduction surgery on gas exchange and pulmonary haemodynamics still need to be more fully investigated. An analysis of the characteristics of patients who do not benefit from the procedure and the development of an animal model for lung volume reduction surgery would probably help address these important issues.