Chronic bronchitis is characterized by mucociliary dysfunction resulting from structural and functional defects of cilia and the secretory apparatus. The combination of hypersecretion and ciliary impairment leads to disruption of mucociliary interaction and hence the accumulation of secretions in the lower airways. Cigarette smoke appears to play a critical role in the pathogenesis of chronic bronchitis-associated mucociliary dysfunction. While the excessive lower airway secretions may have only minor effects on the natural course of airflow obstruction, they could transiently compromise airway function during acute exacerbations. In addition, altered aerosol deposition in the airways resulting from excessive airway secretions could influence the airway responses to inhaled irritants and pharmacologic agents. There are currently no direct, non-invasive methods available to assess the quantity and distribution of airway secretions in vivo. Indirect indices such as cough frequency, sputum volume, respiratory function, and mucociliary clearance are nonspecific and subject to misinterpretation. The clinical utility of mucotropic pharmacologic agents and of physical maneuvers directed at removing excessive lower airway secretions is therefore difficult to evaluate objectively.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine