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Pulmonary Anatomy and Physiology and the Effects of COPD

Farquhar, Stephanie Lacerda RN, MS, CNS; Fantasia, Lesley RN, MSN, CCRN


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, yet it has received relatively little attention in the literature compared with other leading killers such as cancer and heart disease. To identify, assess, intervene, and care for patients with COPD in the home, a comprehensive understanding of this disease and its effects is imperative. This article discusses the epidemiology of COPD, reviews normal pulmonary anatomy and physiology, and explains the physiological changes to the pulmonary system caused by COPD.

Stephanie Lacerda Farquhar, RN, MS, CNS, is a Staff Nurse on the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, RI. Address for correspondence: 358 Dwelly Street, Fall River, MA 02724 (

Lesley Fantasia, RN, MSN, CCRN, is a Clinical Supervisor at Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, MA (

The authors of this article have no significant ties, financial or otherwise, to any company that might have an interest in the publication of this educational activity.

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.