Respiratory & Lung Care

Most people have felt out of breath at some point in their lives. Usually, they will blame it on being out of shape, having some kind of temporary illness or being older. But, for people who have breathing problems often, it could be a sign of a bigger problem. Gundersen Pulmonary has trained providers who can help diagnose and treat lung and breathing disorders.

Conditions we treat

Asthma: While there is no cure for asthma, Gundersen specialists can help you find the right treatment and lifestyle changes to control it. Common symptoms include: shortness of breath, feeling tightness or heaviness in the chest with exertion or at rest, persistent cough or repeated episodes of bronchitis, especially in people who don’t smoke, wheezing and waking up in the middle of the night feeling short of breath.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): COPD is a progressive, but treatable disease that causes problems breathing. The two most common forms of COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It is most commonly diagnosed with a pulmonary function test.

Chronic cough: If you have a cough that lasts longer than three weeks, it could be chronic cough. See your doctor to make sure it’s not a sign of a more serious problem such as asthma, COPD, gastroesophageal reflux, postnasal drip or side effects from a medication.

Lung nodules: Lung nodules, also known as pulmonary nodules, are spots or lesions in the lungs. Some nodules can be cancerous, but more than half of all single pulmonary nodules are noncancerous.

Lung cancer: Lung cancer doesn’t usually have symptoms until the disease is advanced. Some of the early symptoms can include cough, chest pain, coughing up blood, pneumonia and fatigue.

Pulmonary hypertension: Pulmonary hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. It causes the heart to work harder to pump blood and over time can cause heart failure. It is generally is a secondary condition caused by another illness such as COPD, congestive heart failure or a congenital heart defect. Symptoms include: shortness of breath with or without activity, fatigue, dizziness, chest pain/pressure, fast heart rate and swelling.

Shortness of breath: Shortness of breath may be caused by physical exertion, stress or anxiety, asthma, lung diseases including emphysema, and heart disease. If shortness of breath becomes severe, limits your activities or doesn’t go away, be sure to see your doctor.

Treatments we offer

Treatments for lung and breathing disorders will depend on the severity and sometimes root cause of the disease. Our team of specialists will work closely with you to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Asthma: The most common treatment for asthma is rescue and controller inhalers, but other treatments and medications can be used. Doctors also recommend patients identify and reduce exposure to allergens that can trigger asthma symptoms. Some common triggers are allergies, viruses, exercise, cold weather and fumes. Patients are also often taught skills to monitor and manage their asthma.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): COPD is a preventable disease. The most common cause is smoking, although breathing in pollutants, dust or chemicals can also cause COPD. For smokers, smoking cessation can help prevent the disease or keep it from getting worse. COPD can also be treated with inhalers, medications, oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehab. In severe cases, surgery may be an option.

Chronic cough: Some of the tests that may be used to diagnose the cause of a chronic cough may include: Chest x-ray and other radiology tests; breathing tests; pH monitoring, swallow tests, and upper GI endoscopy if reflux is associated with the cough. The treatment of chronic cough is usually directed at its cause. Our specialists can help determine your best options for treatment.

Lung nodules: Lung nodules are usually found when tests are being done for another reason. Several tests can be used for a diagnosis:

  • Bronchoscopy
  • Electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy
  • PET scan/CT scan
  • Needle biopsy through the chest wall
  • Surgical lung biopsy

Lung cancer: Lung cancer must be diagnosed with a tissue sample or biopsy to determine the kind of cancer. The diagnosis is most commonly made by bronchoscopy or needle biopsy. Treatment of lung cancer depends on the type of cancer, the stage, the location and whether the cancer has spread. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation.

Pulmonary hypertension: This is a serious condition that can be treated, but there is no cure. There isn’t one specific test that can be used to diagnose pulmonary hypertension. A series of tests may be needed, including:

  • Pulmonary function tests
  • Chest x-rays, lung perfusion scans and other film studies
  • Six minute walk test
  • Blood tests
  • ECG (EKG)
  • Echocardiogram

Cardiac catherization: There are a number of treatment options for pulmonary hypertension. Since there is no cure for pulmonary hypertension, the treatments try to reduce the symptoms, slow the progression and improve quality of life for patients. If the pulmonary hypertension is the side effect of another illness, treatment focuses on the primary cause. If pulmonary hypertension is the primary cause, medications can be used.

Shortness of breath: Treatment for shortness of breath depends on the underlying cause, and severity. Diagnostic tests may include: pulmonary function tests; chest x-ray; EKG; echocardiogram, or other heart tests; bronchoscopy; blood tests; or chest CT scan.

Pulmonary rehabilitation: Pulmonary rehab is for people with chronic breathing conditions that limit their quality of life. With the help of Gundersen exercise physiologists and respiratory therapists, we’ll help you set goals, establish a safe exercise routine and learn how to exercise at home.

It includes an hour of exercises geared specifically for patients with pulmonary problems and education classes that may include topics on:

  • Introduction to Pulmonary Rehab/Medication
  • Breathing Retraining/Environmental Triggers
  • Exercise/Nutrition
  • Emotional Wellness

Prior to beginning your exercise program, we establish your current condition with a six-minute walk assessment. We also closely monitor your blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen during pulmonary rehab. Your goals, along with other factors, will help determine the length of your rehab.

To learn if you are a good candidate for Pulmonary Rehab, talk with your primary care provider. You’ll need a referral to participate. While most health insurance covers pulmonary rehab, you should also check with your health insurance carrier before you begin.

Smoking cessation: Quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do to live a longer, healthier life. You don’t have to quit smoking alone. Our smoking and tobacco cessation program can provide support. You can also call the quit line at (800) QUIT-NOW for free support.

Pulmonary is a department of Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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