What is the role of emphysema in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?

Updated: Nov 13, 2020
  • Author: Paul Kleinschmidt, MD; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
  • Print
Answer

The second major type is that in which emphysema is the primary underlying process. Emphysema is defined by destruction of airways distal to the terminal bronchiole.

Physiology of emphysema involves gradual destruction of alveolar septae and of the pulmonary capillary bed, leading to decreased ability to oxygenate blood. The body compensates with lowered cardiac output and hyperventilation. This V/Q mismatch results in relatively limited blood flow through a fairly well oxygenated lung with normal blood gases and pressures in the lung, in contrast to the situation in blue bloaters. Because of low cardiac output, however, the rest of the body suffers from tissue hypoxia and pulmonary cachexia. Eventually, these patients develop muscle wasting and weight loss and are identified as "pink puffers."


Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!