The Action of Drugs on the Mechanisms Which Keep the Airways Clear

  • P. S. Richardson
Part of the Ettore Majorana International Science Series book series (EMISS, volume 14)


There are three mechanisms which prevent dust, secretions and cells from accumulating in the airway lumen: coughing, the mucociliary transport system and phagocytosis by macrophages and polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Where these mechanisms fail some airways are likely to become blocked, giving rise to poor ventilation to parts of the lung. In extreme cases there is extensive bronchial and bronchiolar plugging and patients may die from ventilatory failure. This is seen most commonly in those who die from asthma: at post mortem the conducting airways contain extensive plugs of a material which consists of mucus, plasma exudate, fibrin and cellular debris (Dunnill, 1960). There is growing evidence that patients who suffer from milder asthma may also accumulate lesser quantities of such material in their conducting airways. Dunnill (1975) has shown that, in a small series of patients who died in traffic accidents while in remission from their asthma, there was partial occlusion of many airways by secretions and cellular debris.


Mucociliary Clearance Mucus Secretion Airway Lumen Mucociliary Transport Cholinergic Drug 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. S. Richardson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologySt. Georges Hospital Medical SchoolLondonUK

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