Alpha-1 Emphysema: Treatment

Reviewed by Robert A. Sandhaus, MD, PhD, FCCP

Medication Therapy

Specific therapy has been available for Alpha-1 since 1987: a class of medicine called augmentation therapy. This medicine replaces the alpha-1 antitrypsin protein in the blood with normal alpha-1 antitrypsin from healthy plasma donors, and it is given in a vein. The dose is adjusted based on body weight, and this treatment is often given once a week. There are three brands of augmentation therapy. They include:

  • Prolastin®
  • AralastTM
  • ZemairaTM



Lung transplants or lung reduction surgery may be an option for people severely affected by Alpha-1.


Behavior Modification

In addition to medicines, the management of Alpha-1 includes:

  • Exercise and a healthy lifestyle including giving up smoking, 
  • Avoidance of infection ,
  • Oxygen therapy,
  • Breathing Retraining, 
  • Techniques to bring up mucus and
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation.
  • Giving up smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke. This is particularly important to managing Alpha-1. Smoking can accelerate or speed the development of the Alpha-1 related emphysema and shorten the lifespan.


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