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Dilatation and Collapse of the Lungs

air, air-cells, walls and condition


Dilatation or Emphysema (from Greek, emphusao, to dilate) is a condition of all or parts of the lungs in which the air-cells are larger than usual, being greatly distended. The walls of the air-cells have lost their elasticity, so that they cannot recover from undue stretch ing. The condition is the result of some ex cessive pressure exerted on the walls of the cells by the air within them. It is a common consequence of blocking up of parts of the lung. If the chest enlarges as usual the parts of the lungs that have become blocked up cannot re ceive any of the entering air, and the healthy parts must consequently stretch to make room for it. If the unusual state continues for any time, the permanent overstretching of the walls of the air-cells destroys their elasticity, so that, if they had the opportunity, they could not recover themselves. It is a consequence of bronchitis, of blocking up or destruction of parts of the lungs, and of other diseases. It may be originated by constant playing of wind instruments, and by the efforts to raise heavy weights. Though a disease of adults, children affected with croup, whooping-cough, &c., are liable to it.

Its symptoms it is needless to discuss, the chief being shortness of breath. It develops a barrel-shaped chest.

Its treatment is mainly such as will tend to support and nourish the body, improve the general health and condition of the blood.

Nourishing food and attention to the bowels are thus of the utmost importance, and to these is added the administration of iron tonics and cod-liver oil.

Collapse of the Lungs (Atelectasis, Greek, ateles, imperfect, and ektasis, widening).—The air-cells are empty of air and their walls col lapsed, so that the part of the lung affected is more or less shrunk and solid. This may be effected by pressure, for instance by the pres sure of a great quantity of fluid in the pleura as in pleurisy (p. 359). It may be present iu bronchitis and other diseases of the lungs owing to plugs of matter occupying bronchial tubes and acting like ball-valves, permitting air to leave the part of the lung which the tubes supply, but none to enter. Children during the first year of life, especially the weakly and ill-nourished, are specially apt to suffer from this affection in the progress of measles, whoop ing-cough, or croup.

Atelectasis is the term applied to the con dition of the lungs of children who have not breathed after birth—the air has not entered to expand the air-cells.

The detection and treatment of the condition are the work of a physician.