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Respir Med. 2007 Jun;101(6):1049-65. Epub 2007 Mar 23.

One hundred years of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Unit of Respiratory Diseases, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an increasing health problem and one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, but knowledge about its pathogenesis has increased substantially in recent years. The disease results from interaction between individual risk factors (like enzymatic deficiencies) and environmental exposures to noxious agents, like cigarette smoking, occupational dusts, air pollution and infections in childhood. The main mechanisms that may contribute to airflow limitation in COPD are fixed narrowing of small airways, emphysema and luminal obstruction with mucus secretions. COPD is characterised by a chronic inflammatory process in the pulmonary tissue, with a pattern different from bronchial asthma, associated with extrapulmonary effects and is considered now a complex, systemic disease. Optimal therapeutic targeting of COPD depends on a clear understanding of the precise mechanisms of these complex processes and on early and correct evaluation of disease severity. A combination of pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches is used to treat COPD. Bronchodilators are the mainstay of COPD treatment and can be combined with inhaled corticosteroids for greater efficacy and fewer side effects. The use of LTOT for hypoxemic patients has resulted in increased survival, and expanded drug therapy options have effectively improved dyspnoea and quality of life. Recent studies have documented the benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation. In addition, non-invasive mechanical ventilation offers new alternatives for patients with acute or chronic failure.

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