Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that causes breathing-related problems that get worse as time goes on. Both chronic bronchitis and emphysema fall under the umbrella of COPD. It is the third leading cause of death in the Northland, and it is the second leading cause of emergency room visits in Clay County.

When you have COPD, your airways become inflamed, and the tissue where oxygen is exchanged is damaged or destroyed. Over time, lung function decreases and less oxygen gets into your body. Because the body cannot breathe in enough oxygen or get rid of enough carbon dioxide, patients experience shortness of breath. As the disease progresses, difficulty breathing can make it hard to live a normal, active life.

COPD is not curable. However, with the right diagnosis and treatment plan, you can manage COPD and live a quality life. The pulmonary and respiratory professionals at North Kansas City Hospital can help.


Not every person has the same COPD symptoms. Some common ones include:

• Coughing frequently
• Chest tightness or pressure
• Chronic cough that may produce mucus
• Frequent respiratory infections
• Increased shortness of breath during everyday activities
• Wheezing

Treatment Options

Treatment plans vary based on medical history and symptoms. Your plan may include:

  • Medications such as inhaled steroids for long-term control and bronchodilators for quick-relief (rescue).
  • Oxygen therapy to provide extra oxygen to your lungs. Some people need oxygen all the time while others need it only during a flare-up.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation to help you:
    • Control and reduce the symptoms and complications of COPD
    • Improve your overall quality of life through education, exercise and support
    • Reduce your hospital admissions
  • Supportive (Palliative) Care
  • Surgery to remove destroyed air sacs or diseased lung tissue if your COPD symptoms are severe


Nearly 90% of all COPD cases are linked to smoking cigarettes. If you smoke, your best defense against COPD is to quit. Other ways to help prevent COPD:

  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Limit time outside when there is a poor air quality alert
  • Protect yourself against chemicals and fumes at work


  • Explore our Health Library for additional information about quitting smoking
  • Find support among other patients who suffer from COPD and other lung diseases
  • Learn how to live well with a chronic condition such as COPD. North Kansas City Hospital offers a six-week workshop to help you learn skills that can help you thrive and achieve your goals. View upcoming classes
  • Learn more about North Kansas City Hospital’s pulmonary rehabilitation program, the only one in the Northland certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation
  • Watch Dr. Michael R. Brown demonstrate how to use an inhaler correctly, so you can receive the maximum benefits of your medication