The senile lung. Comparison with normal and emphysematous lungs. 1. Structural aspects

Chest. 1992 Mar;101(3):793-9. doi: 10.1378/chest.101.3.793.


As part of a study of the structural-functional correlations of excised human lungs obtained at autopsy, the parenchyma and peripheral airways were examined by means of morphometric techniques. Among the 30 lungs characterized by the absence of fibrosis, ten differed from the normal and emphysematous lungs by a homogeneous dilatation of the airspaces, in excess of the dimensions predicted on the basis of age. Study of the standard deviations of the mean linear intercepts showed that the airspace dilatation was more regular than in emphysematous lungs; in addition, there was no clear-cut destruction, as estimated from the number of alveolar attachments. These lungs were characterized in addition by an increased thickening of alveolar septa, without inflammation or fibrosis, normal size of the diameter, and reduced density of the membranous bronchioles. Since these lungs were from people older than 60 years, it is assumed that they represent cases of exaggerated airspace enlargement of the aging lung, differing from emphysema by the absence of destruction of alveolar walls. The term "senile lung" is proposed or this condition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Bronchi / pathology
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / pathology*