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Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2008 May 1;5(4):556-60. doi: 10.1513/pats.200708-123ET.

Cognitive and psychological issues in emphysema.

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National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver, CO 80206, USA.


Various psychological and cognitive difficulties have been documented in patients with emphysema. The aim of this article is to review prior literature on the prevalence of these difficulties in emphysema, as well as identify specific studies demonstrating improvement in these areas after therapy. Traditional therapies such as continuous and intermittent oxygen therapy and comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation are reviewed. In general, these studies demonstrate reductions in symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as specific improvements in complex attention and verbal fluency. In a more recent study, patients with emphysema who underwent lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) demonstrated improved psychomotor speed, verbal memory, and naming skills at 6 months compared with patients with emphysema who were in comprehensive rehabilitation only. The patients with emphysema who had LVRS also demonstrated greater decline in depressive symptoms compared with the rehabilitation patients at 6 months. There were no associations between improved neuropsychological tests and changes in depression, exercise tests, pulmonary function, oxygenation, or quality of life scores, and thus the mechanism of behavioral improvement identified in the patients who underwent LVRS remained unclear. Overall, studies suggest that psychological and cognitive improvements occur subsequent to a variety of medical and behavioral treatment therapeutic approaches, and that LVRS appears to have an advantage for some patients with emphysema.

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