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September 20, 1965

Emphysema: Research Focuses on Etiologic Enigma

JAMA. 1965;193(12):25-30. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090120087043

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Emphysema has been defined as an anatomic alteration of lung tissue characterized by an abnormal enlargement of air space distal to the terminal nonrespiratory bronchiole, accompanied by degenerative changes of the alveolar walls.

This is the disease seen at autopsy. What emphysema is before that time is only partially understood. Signs and symptoms vary. It is often confused with bronchitis and bronchiectasis—conditions which sometimes occur simultaneously with emphysema. Early emphysema may be symptomless. It is almost impossible to diagnose. And yet, by the time the disease can be recognized, there is little therapy for it and no cure.

Distinguished clinicians around the country are continually studying emphysema from all angles. Their vital concern is the discovery of the etiology of this destruction of lung tissue. Others are constantly improving the care of patients with the disease.

It is estimated that more than 10 million Americans have some form of emphysema.

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