General Considerations

Oxygen enables the breath of life;without adequate lung function, lives cannot be sustained. Patients with pulmonary disease must work harder for adequate oxygenation. These patients complain of ''air hunger'' or ''too little air.'' Anyone who has traveled to areas of high altitude, where the oxygen concentration is reduced, has experienced shortness of breath.

The magnitude of pulmonary disease is enormous. In 2007, there were 115,652 deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, more than 5 million people had some degree of pulmonary disability, and more than 20 million had pulmonary symptoms. In addition, there were 91,871 deaths from pneumonia and influenza. Asthma accounted for more than 5400 deaths. In 1967, the estimated cost of morbidity and mortality from lung disease was $1.8 billion. In 2007, this figure skyrocketed to more than $65 billion.

Cancer of the lung and bronchus is the leading cause of death from cancer in the United States in both men (31% of all cancer deaths) and women (26% of all cancer deaths). In 2007, the American Cancer Society estimated that 213,380 new cases of lung and bronchus cancer were diagnosed. Cancer of the lung and bronchus is the second most common cancer in men (13%) after prostate cancer and second most common in women (12%) after breast cancer. There were 160,390 deaths, of which 89,510 were deaths in men. The highest incidence rate and death rate from cancer of the lung and bronchus are in African Americans: 73.9 per 100,000 and 60.5 per 100,000, respectively. The lifetime probability for development of cancer of the lung and bronchus is 1 per 13 in men and 1 per 17 in women.

Pulmonary diseases arise when the lungs are unable to provide adequate oxygenation or to eliminate carbon dioxide. Any derangement of these functions indicates abnormal respiratory function.

During a 24-hour period, the lungs oxygenate more than 5700 L of blood with more than 11,400 L of air. The total surface area of the alveoli of the lungs comprises an area larger than a tennis court.

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