Jacksonville man creates unique lung surgery

By Ryne Turke on December 13, 2015 at 9:50am

A cardiothoracic surgeon from Jacksonville is gaining publicity for his unique new surgery.

Dr. Stephen Hazelrigg says the lung volume reduction procedure mainly benefits patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

“We remove some of the most diseased part of the lung, which is filling with air and pushing on good parts of the lung. By taking that out, it kind of shrinks the inside part of the chest and allows the diaphragm to regain its curvature. People end up breathing better.”

Hazelrigg says he has been researching ways to combat emphysema for decades and that eventually lead to his first lung volume reduction surgery in 1993.

Hazelrigg says SIU School of Medicine is one of the busiest sites for the new surgery.

“We’ve done over 500 total. There are only six sites in the country that have been approved by the commission to do it.”

Hazelrigg notes that patients interested in becoming a candidate for the surgery must go through months of screenings and an exercise rehab program.

“Most of the patients we see have a breathing capacity between 20-30 percent of what would be normal for them. Most of the people we see are already on oxygen or on the cusp of it. We will make them better. Our average improvement is about 50 percent. Over time they will gradually continue to lose lung function. The average is around three to five years.”

Hazelrigg graduated from Knox College in Galesburg and SIU School of Medicine.