What are the benefits and risks of lung volume reduction surgery?

The National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT)'s results confirm that LVRS is beneficial for patients who have predominant upper lobe disease and low exercise capacity, as compared with medical treatment.While effective for some patients, there are risks involved with lung reduction surgery, including:

  • Air leakage (occurring when air leaks from the lung tissue, coming from the suture line into the chest cavity)
  • Pneumonia or infection
  • Stroke
  • Bleeding
  • Heart attack
  • Death (due to worsening of one of the above complications)

Are there alternatives to surgery for lung volume reduction?

Approaches are currently being investigated that use endobronchial valves to perform lung volume reduction without the need for incisions. These valves are placed in the inside of the lung through a bronchoscopy. During a bronchoscopy, a long, thin tube called a bronchoscope is passed through the nose or mouth and down the airway as far as necessary. A small camera sends the images to a television monitor.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/17/2019.


  • Fishman A, et al. National Emphysema Treatment Trial Research Group. A randomized trial comparing lung-volume-reduction surgery with medical therapy for severe emphysema. N Engl J Med. 2003 May 22;348(21):2059-73.
  • American Lung Association. Lung Health & Diseases—Surgery. Accessed 7/15/2018.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy