BACKGROUND: Lung-volume-reduction surgery has been proposed as a palliative treatment for severe emphysema. Effects on mortality, the magnitude and durability of benefits, and criteria for the selection of patients have not been established. METHODS: A total of 1218 patients with severe emphysema underwent pulmonary rehabilitation and were randomly assigned to undergo lung-volume-reduction surgery or to receive continued medical treatment. RESULTS: Overall mortality was 0.11 death per person-year in both treatment groups (risk ratio for death in the surgery group, 1.01; P=0.90). After 24 months, exercise capacity had improved by more than 10 W in 15 percent of the patients in the surgery group, as compared with 3 percent of patients in the medical-therapy group (P<0.001). With the exclusion of a subgroup of 140 patients at high risk for death from surgery according to an interim analysis, overall mortality in the surgery group was 0.09 death per personyear, as compared with 0.10 death per person-year in the medical-therapy group (risk ratio, 0.89; P=0.31); exercise capacity after 24 months had improved by more than 10 W in 16 percent of patients in the surgery group, as compared with 3 percent of patients in the medical-therapy group (P<0.001). Among patients with predominantly upper-lobe emphysema and low exercise capacity, mortality was lower in the surgery group than in the medical-therapy group (risk ratio for death, 0.47; P=0.005). Among patients with non-upper-lobe emphysema and high exercise capacity, mortality was higher in the surgery group than in the medical-therapy group (risk ratio, 2.06; P=0.02). CONCLUSIONS: Overall, lung-volume-reduction surgery increases the chance of improved exercise capacity but does not confer a survival advantage over medical therapy. It does yield a survival advantage for patients with both predominantly upper-lobe emphysema and low base-line exercise capacity. Patients previously reported to be at high risk and those with non-upper-lobe emphysema and high base-line exercise capacity are poor candidates for lung-volume-reduction surgery, because of increased mortality and negligible functional gain.
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