Conditions and Diagnoses

Listed below are the thoracic conditions and diagnoses treated at the Emory General Thoracic Surgery Center.


Achalasia is a condition in which nerve damage hinders the esophagus (muscular tube that connect s the mouth and the stomach) from properly carrying food from the mouth to the stomach. Symptoms may include chest pain, heart burn and difficulty swallowing.

Barrett's Esophagus

In people with Barrett’s esophagus, the lining of the esophagus (muscular tube that connect s the mouth and the stomach) changes, becoming similar to the lining of the intestine, as a result of long-term exposure to stomach acid. Though Barrett’s esophagus does not have specific symptoms, it often develops as a complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and can increase the risk for esophageal cancer.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be caused by asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema. Over time, individuals with COPD slowly lose their ability to breathe. Symptoms of COPD range from chronic cough and sputum production to severe, disabling shortness of breath.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that is recessively inherited, meaning both parents need to have the defective gene. People with CF often have respiratory problems, including bronchitis, bronchiectasis (irreversible widening of the airways), pneumonia, sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), nasal polyps (growths inside the nose) or pneumothorax (collapsed lung). Symptoms of CF include frequent wheezing or pneumonia, chronic cough with thick mucus, persistent diarrhea, salty-tasting skin and poor growth.

Diaphragm Eventration

Diaphragm eventration is a defect in which a portion of the lining of the diaphragm (tissue wall that separates the chest and abdominal cavities) is composed of a thin membrane instead of muscle. The condition can be congenital (from birth) or can result from nerve injury. In many cases there are no symptoms, and the condition is often discovered incidentally through imaging.

Diaphragmatic Hernia

A diaphragmatic hernia is a congenital disorder in which an abnormal opening in the diaphragm (tissue wall that separates the chest and abdominal cavities) allows parts of the organs in the stomach to breach into the chest cavity, where they can interfere with the formation and functioning of the lungs. Symptoms may include difficult or rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat and cyanosis (bluish skin tint due to insufficient oxygen).


In patients with emphysema, the walls between the tiny air sacs in the lungs are damaged. While healthy lungs expand with each inhalation and collapse with each exhalation, helping to move air in and out, lungs damaged by emphysema gradually lose their elasticity. The airways, normally held open by the elastic pull of the lungs, also become floppy and collapse on exhalation. As a result, patients with emphysema experience increasing difficulty breathing.

Learn more about  treatments for Emphysema.

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is a malignant tumor that develops in the esophagus, the muscular tube that connects the mouth and the stomach. In the early stages, there may be no symptoms, but as the disease progresses, it may result in painful or difficult swallowing, weight loss or coughing up blood. Learn more.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

In this chronic digestive disease, acid and/or bile flows backward from the stomach into the esophagus (muscular tube that connect s the mouth and the stomach) as a result of the muscle at the end of the esophagus not closing properly. The most common symptom of GERD is frequent heartburn.


Hyperhidrosis is a term used for excessive sweating, often in the absence of heat or exertion.

Learn more about  treatments for hyperhidrosis.

Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD)

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a general term that includes a variety of chronic lung disorders such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, eosinophilic granuloma, Goodpasture’s syndrome, idiopathic pulmonary hemosiderosis and Wegener’s granulomatosis. When a person has ILD, the lung is affected in four ways:

1. Lung tissue becomes damaged

2. The walls of the air sacs in the lung become inflamed

3. Scarring begins to form in the tissue between the air sacs of the lung

4. The lung becomes stiff

Lung Cancer

One of the most common cancers, there are many types, and each develops and spreads in a different way and requires different treatment. Common symptoms may include a persistent cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight, and persistent chest pain.

Learn more about lung cancer treatments at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.


Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that usually develops in the tissue that lines the lungs, though it may also develop in the stomach, heart or other organs. The most common cause of mesothelioma is the inhalation of asbestos particles in the workplace, though the disease may develop many years following exposure. The symptoms of mesothelioma may include back, chest or abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, persistent cough, fever/sweating, muscle weakness and swelling in the face, arms or stomach.

Learn more about mesothelioma treatments at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia gravis is a disorder of the immune system that affects normal nerve function, most commonly experienced in the face and neck. Symptoms may include trouble swallowing, blinking and forming facial expressions, and may get worse with increased activity.

Pleural Effusion

Normally, a thin layer of fluid is found in the pleural membrane surrounding the lungs. Pleural effusion is the excess accumulation of fluid in this membrane that may result from a number of causes, including infections, injuries, disorders of the heart, lungs or liver, and certain medications. Symptoms often include difficulty breathing and chest pain.


Pneumothorax occurs when air accumulates around the lung, causing it to partially or completely collapse. Pneumothorax may result from smoking, airway diseases or changes in altitude, or it may have no apparent cause (spontaneous).