Physiologic similarities and differences between COPD and asthma

Chest. 2004 Aug;126(2 Suppl):117S-124S; discussion 159S-161S. doi: 10.1378/chest.126.2_suppl_1.117S.


The structural and physiologic findings in asthma and COPD appear, on average, and in the extremes of presentation, to be easily distinguished. A closer inspection of the literature reveals that significant overlap exists in individual patients with respect to airway wall thickening and low-attenuation parenchymal regions on CT scans, and in reversibility, airway hyperresponsiveness, lung diffusion, resting and dynamic hyperinflation, lung elastic recoil, exercise response, and a "pharmaceutical volume reduction" effect following therapy with bronchodilators. In particular, the subgroup of COPD patients having an airway-dominant phenotype becomes indistinguishable from asthmatic subjects with reversible disease that evolves into an incompletely reversible pattern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / genetics
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / physiology
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lung Compliance / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Phenotype
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / genetics
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Vital Capacity / physiology