Research news: December 2011
N Engl J Med2011;365:1567-75
We have long thought that emphysema was a disease of the lung parenchyma, whereby alveoli became permanently enlarged and subsequently destroyed. A new study suggests though that it is not the alveoli that are primarily affected in emphysema, but rather the terminal bronchioles, which become narrowed and destroyed as a result of inflammation. It seems that alveolar walls only collapse and fold as a consequence.
The study used multidetector and microdectector computed tomography to examine the lungs of 78 volunteers with various stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as judged by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) scale, as well as lungs removed from four dead people without lung disease, four people with centrilobular emphysema, and eight people with panlobular emphysema.
Compared with lungs of people without COPD, the lungs of those with COPD showed a decrease in the number of