Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a common, progressive lung disease. At the COPD Clinic at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, we provide information about COPD, how it's treated, and the things that you can do to feel better and live longer.
If you have questions for the COPD team or you would like to be seen in the COPD Clinic, please contact Pulmonary Medicine at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a common, progressive lung disease. Most people with COPD are smokers or ex-smokers. There are two parts to COPD:
- Emphysema: damage to the lungs, which makes you short of breath with activity
- Chronic bronchitis: inflammation in the airways, which makes you cough
Many people with COPD have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Breathing tests are used to confirm a diagnosis of COPD. We grade COPD from 1 (mild) to 4 (very severe) based on your breathing test results. The most important thing to do if you are diagnosed with COPD is to stop smoking. If you have not already done so then you should quit as soon as possible. This will prevent further lung damage. COPD usually progresses very slowly once you have quit smoking, so the earlier you can quit, the better.
Treatments for COPD include inhaled medications, oxygen if you need it, and regular exercise to reduce your feeling of shortness of breath. Learn more about COPD and treatments.
Comprehensive COPD care means doing everything possible to improve your breathing and your overall health. The right inhalers are important but so are lots of other things, such as smoking cessation, immunizations, oxygen and exercise. We work with you to make sure your breathing is the best it can be.
At your first clinic visit, you will meet with our nurse, one of our physicians, and our respiratory therapist. Together, we will:
- Have you perform some breathing tests before we see you. These tests will help us understand whether your COPD is mild, moderate, or severe.
- Review your medical history
- Talk with you about what COPD is and how it can be treated
- Review the COPD plan checklist and provide you with a personalized plan to take home with you. It may take more than one visit to cover everything on the checklist and not every patient needs everything on this list.
COPD plan checklist
- Medications: Which medications are right for you?
- Exacerbation prevention: What can we do to prevent a flare up?
- Sick plan: What is your “Action Plan” if you get sick?
- Sleep evaluation: Do you need a sleep study?
- Advanced directives: Have you completed advanced directives?
- Smoking cessation: Have you stopped smoking? If not, how can we help?
- Pulmonary rehabilitation: Would you benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation?
- Oxygen: Do you need oxygen?
- Immunizations: Are you up to date with your immunizations?
- Lung cancer screening: Would lung cancer screening be right for you?
- Lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) / transplant: Would lung surgery or transplant be helpful?
- Palliative care: Could palliative care be helpful?
- A1AT testing: Have you been tested for alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency?
- Other: Is there anything else we should be doing?
The pulmonary support group is a monthly meeting of patients with lung disease and their families. Many of the patients have COPD. We meet at 4:30 pm on the third Wednesday of the month at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.
The support group is a great place to meet other people with COPD and to learn more about COPD and the lungs in general. At a typical meeting, there will be a presentation by a physician or therapist with the opportunity to ask questions and talk afterward. Past topics have included:
- Immunizations and pulmonary function testing
- Interstitial lung disease
- Yoga for patients with lung disease
Coffee, tea, and snacks are provided.
Many members of the support group take part in the annual Breathe New Hampshire cruise.
Our COPD Clinic team members have a number of research interests including:
- Peak inspiratory flow rate testing
- Pulmonary macrophage function
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
To learn more about our current research studies and to find out if you might be eligible to participate, please ask one of the COPD Clinic staff during your visit.