The Pathology of Asthma: An Overview

  • L. A. Laitinen
  • A. Laitinen
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 98)


Classical dogma equates asthma with mucus plugs, bronchial smooth muscle hyperplasia, eosinophilia and thickening of the epithelial basement membrane. However, these characteristics are those seen at autopsy of lungs obtained from asthmatics who died from status asthmaticus and neither reflect the changes in early disease nor how they relate to disease severity (Houston et al. 1953; Cardell 1956; Dunnill et al. 1969; Thurlbeck et al. 1970). So far the fatal cases have contributed the most to our understanding of the pathological changes in asthma. In fact, until recent years it has been very uncommon to see biopsy material from asthmatics, and thus the histology of the airways of living stable asthmatics was unknown. The hallmark of asthma is the functional change associated with airways obstruction. At least in the early stages, bronchospasm is a function of smooth muscle tone, and it has been suggested that there may even not be any early morphological changes. Developments in bronchoscopic and electron microscopic techniques have been essential in obtaining knowledge of airway morphology in living asthmatics. In the future, along with the introduction of new techniques, special attention must be paid to careful patient characterization.


Mast Cell Airway Smooth Muscle Airway Epithelium Ciliated Cell Bronchial Artery 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1991

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  • L. A. Laitinen
  • A. Laitinen

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