The terms chronic bronchitis and emphysema have been loosely applied in the literature to a wide spectrum of diseases characterised by chronic, irreversible airways obstruction. Their use as descriptive terms rather than specific diagnoses has hindered a proper understanding of the differences between the two diseases. The present paper is devoted primarily to the physiological aspects of chronic bronchitis and emphysema but to avoid confusion the two diseases will first be defined in terms of their clinical and pathological features.
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