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Learning Objectives

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  1. Learn the role of blood gases in the evaluation of the patient with pulmonary disease.

  2. Understand how pleural fluid analysis is used in the diagnosis of pulmonary disorders.

  3. Understand how bronchoalveolar lavage can aid in the diagnosis of respiratory disease.

  4. Recognize the different laboratory tests used for assessing fetal lung maturity.

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Approach to the Patient With Pulmonary Disease

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Impaired exchange of gases is the unifying theme of respiratory disorders (Figure 14–1). Although they do not play a significant role in the diagnosis of specific pulmonary diseases, blood gas and electrolyte measurements (see Chapter 2 for blood gas determinations) are commonly used to assess the severity of different pulmonary abnormalities. The analysis of fluid located in the pleural space, which collects with certain abnormalities, constitutes another battery of tests often useful in the evaluation of pulmonary diseases. Careful analysis of respiratory secretions along with accompanying white blood cells, immune mediators, and foreign pathogens through bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) aids in the diagnosis and management of lung disease. Infections in the respiratory tract are a major cause of pulmonary disorders. These are nearly always diagnosed using clinical laboratory tests (respiratory infections are discussed in Chapter 5). This chapter begins with a discussion of laboratory tests utilized in the diagnosis and monitoring of respiratory diseases and is followed by a section describing the most common lung diseases—asthma, respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) in adults and neonates, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer.

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Figure 14–1

An overview of the major causes of respiratory disease.

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Pulmonary disorders other than infections and tumors can be classified into 3 major groups. One group of disorders includes emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, and RDS. These are airway-based (bronchial) diseases. Inflammation or damage to the bronchi results in impaired ventilation of alveoli (Figure 14–2). Another group of disorders affects the blood vessels, and, thereby, blood flow in the lung. Pulmonary vascular diseases are associated with reduced blood flow, resulting in nonuniform perfusion of the lungs (Figure 14–3). The third major group of pulmonary diseases is the interstitial lung disorders, which affect the tissue and space around the alveoli. These are a heterogeneous group of disorders associated with lung tissue damage due to scarring or inflammation. Damaged lung tissue is unable to fully expand, leading to thickening of the interface between alveoli and adjacent capillaries resulting in impaired diffusion of gases (Figure 14–4).

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Figure 14–2

Diagram of diseases of the airway resulting in impaired ventilation.

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Figure 14–3

Diagram of diseases with reduced blood flow, resulting in impaired perfusion of the lung.

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Figure 14–4

Diagram of diseases with ...

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