COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis

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COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, refers to two related conditions: emphysema (when air sacs in the lungs that help transfer oxygen into and carbon dioxide out of the blood are destroyed) and chronic bronchitis (when airways leading to the lungs become inflamed, irritated, and scarred). No matter whether you have chronic bronchitis or emphysema, Duke’s nationally ranked lung program offers the latest diagnostic tools and treatments to reduce your COPD symptoms, increase your lung function, and improve your quality of life.

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Helping You Manage COPD at Every Stage

If you struggle with wheezing, coughing, extreme shortness of breath, or frequent lung infections, our team of specialists can help. We offer the latest tools for diagnosing COPD -- both chronic bronchitis and emphysema -- early. We can help you control your symptoms through a personalized treatment plan that may include medicine, lifestyle changes, and pulmonary rehabilitation.

If you are in a later stage of COPD and don’t respond to traditional treatment options, we may evaluate whether you are a candidate for a more invasive therapy, such as surgical or bronchoscopic lung volume reduction, or a lung transplant. No matter which course of treatment you receive, our team is committed to helping you control your COPD symptoms and maximize your lung function.​

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Treatments for COPD

Smoking Cessation Assistance

Research has found that stopping smoking reduces the risks of COPD progressing or getting worse, no matter how old you are, how much you have smoked, or the stage of your illness. We offer several excellent smoking cessation programs and aids to help you kick the habit.

Inhaled and Oral Medications

Medications can relax the muscles and reduce inflammation around your airways, allowing them to expand and let more air through. This makes it easier to breathe.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Improves your lung function and prevents flare-ups that may cause emergency room or hospital visits.

Videos on COPD

In this set of videos, Duke experts talk about what happens when you have COPD -- and options for treatment.

Inhaled Oxygen Therapy

Allows you to exercise more, feel more comfortable in daily life, and pursue more activities at home or when you go out.

Lung Volume Reduction Surgery (LVRS)

For certain people, LVRS can improve chances of survival and quality of life while decreasing your need for oxygen. During LVRS, your doctor removes a diseased portion of your lung, allowing your healthy lung tissues to expand and function better.

Lung Transplant

A transplant may be the recommended course of treatment for people with advanced lung disease who have tried other treatments.

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Tests for COPD

Pulmonary Function Tests (Including Spirometry)

These tests determine whether you have COPD and the stage of your illness by measuring the amount of air in your lungs and the rate at which they empty.

Imaging Tests

CT scans take detailed 3D images to help us evaluate your lung anatomy and lung function.

Choosing Where to Receive COPD Treatment

Dedicated Airway Research Center
Our lung disease program includes a dedicated airway research center and a lung transplant team that is among the most active in the nation. In addition, lung care programs around the world have sought our pulmonary rehabilitation program as models for their own.

A Team of Experts
Your personal care team may include lung doctors (pulmonologists), counselors, rehab specialists, and other health care professionals. Your team will address your unique health care needs, helping you manage your emphysema or chronic bronchitis, as well as your COPD symptoms.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program
Our pulmonary rehabilitation program teaches you how to exercise, eat right, quit smoking, lose weight, and make other lifestyle changes that will keep your chronic bronchitis and emphysema under control, improve your COPD symptoms, and maximize your lung function.

Access to Clinical Trials
Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible to participate in our active clinical research into the latest COPD treatments.

Best Hospital for Pulmonology and Lung Surgery in NC

Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our pulmonology and lung surgery program is nationally ranked, and the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

This page was medically reviewed on 10/29/2020