Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Reassessment of inflammation of airways in chronic bronchitis.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 291 doi: (Published 02 November 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;291:1235
  1. J B Mullen,
  2. J L Wright,
  3. B R Wiggs,
  4. P D Pare,
  5. J C Hogg


    The term chronic bronchitis has been criticised because it is associated with hypersecretion of mucus rather than bronchial inflammation. This study was designed to establish the presence or absence of clinical chronic bronchitis and measure pulmonary function in 45 patients about to undergo resection of the lung. The condition in the cartilaginous and small airways and the severity of the emphysema were then measured in the resected specimen. The results from 20 patients who had clinical chronic bronchitis were compared with those in 25 patients who did not. The data show that patients with chronic bronchitis had greater inflammation (a) on mucosal surfaces (p less than 0.05) of all bronchi larger than 2 mm luminal diameter and (b) around glands (p less than 0.005) and gland ducts (p less than 0.05) in bronchi larger than 4 mm diameter. A variable degree of inflammation was present in the submucosa of smaller bronchi. The groups had equivalent proportions of mucous glands and Reid's indices in central airways, and no differences were noted in measurements of pulmonary function, condition of small airways, or emphysema. These data show that the term chronic bronchitis is justified by inflammation of cartilaginous airways and suggest that this abnormality may be the cause of the chronic productive cough.