This health video looks into the new solutions to help Emphysema sufferers.
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Jennifer Mathews: A couple months ago, Andy Gustchen would have needed oxygen to ride this bike. 43 years of smoking took its toll on Andy's lungs. He has severe emphysema. Andy Gustchen: You can't plan to do things. You don't know how you are going to feel from one day to the next. Jennifer Mathews: Andy had lung volume reduction surgery, a procedure in which the most damaged part of the lung is removed to make room for the healthy portion. But the surgery has been controversial. It is not always successful, and it carries significant risks including death. Gerard Criner: Patients who have a survival advantage are those who have a predominance of the emphysema in the upper portions of the lung field. Jennifer Mathews: Because of the questionable outcome, Medicare would not pay for the $60,000 operation until they did their own research. Gerard Criner: Patients who received lung volume reduction surgery, as a group, had an improvement in exercise capacity, breathlessness, an improvement in quality of life that was superior to those who received optimized medical therapy alone. Jennifer Mathews: Based on those findings, in January of this year, Medicare decided to cover patients who meet certain approved criteria. And that was a breath of fresh air for sufferers like Andy. Andy Gustchen: It's been phenomenal so far than I haven't had any oxygen since I've been out of the hospital. Jennifer Mathews: This is Jennifer Mathews reporting.