congenital lobar emphysema

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Congenital Lobar Emphysema



Congenital lobar emphysema is a chronic disease that causes respiratory distress in infants.


Congenital lobar emphysema, also called infantile lobar emphysema, is a respiratory disease that occurs in infants when air enters the lungs but cannot leave easily. The lungs become over-inflated, causing respiratory function to decrease and air to leak out into the space around the lungs.
Half of the cases of congenital lobar emphysema occur in the first four weeks of life, and three-quarters occur in infants less than six months old. Congenital lobar emphysema is more common in boys than in girls.
Each person has two lungs, right and left. The right lung is divided into three sections, called lobes, and the left lung into two lobes. Congenital lobar emphysema usually affects only one lobe, and this is usually an upper lobe. It occurs most frequently in the left upper lobe, followed by the right middle lobe.

Causes and symptoms

The cause of congenital lobar emphysema often cannot be identified. The airway may be obstructed or the infant's lungs may not have developed properly. Congenital lobar emphysema is almost never of genetic origin.
Symptoms of congenital lobar emphysema include:
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • lips and fingernail beds that have a bluish tinge


Congenital lobar emphysema is usually identified within the first two weeks of the infant's life. It is diagnosed by respiratory symptoms and a chest x ray, which shows the over-inflation of the affected lobe and may show a blocked air passage.


For infants with no, mild, or intermittent symptoms, no treatment is necessary. For more serious cases of congenital lobar emphysema, surgery is necessary, usually a lobectomy to remove the affected lung lobe.

Alternative treatment

Alternative treatments that may be helpful for congenital lobar emphysema are aimed at supporting and strengthening the patient's respiratory function. Vitamin and mineral supplementation may be recommended as may herbal remedies such as lobelia (Lobelia inflata) that strengthen the lungs and enhance their elasticity. Homeopathic constitutional care may also be beneficial for this condition.

Key terms

Congenital — A disease or condition that is present at birth.
Emphysema — A condition in which the air sacs in the lungs become overinflated, causing a decrease in respiratory function.
Lobar — Relating to a lobe, a rounded projecting part of the lungs.


Surgery for congenital lobar emphysema has excellent results.


Congenital lobar emphysema cannot be prevented.



American Lung Association. 1740 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. (800) 586-4872.
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. P.O. Box 30105, Bethesda, MD 20824-0105. (301) 251-1222.
National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine. 1400 Jackson St., Denver, CO 80206. (800) 222-5864. 〈〉.

con·gen·i·tal lo·bar em·phy·se·ma

common cause of neonatal respiratory distress which usually involves the left upper lobe.

congenital lobar emphysema

Etymology: L, congenitus, born with; Gk, lobos, lobe; Gk, en, in + physema, a blowing
a condition characterized by overinflation, commonly affecting one of the upper lobes and causing respiratory distress in early life. Also called congenital lobar overinflation.


pertaining to a lobe.

congenital lobar emphysema
emphysema of one or more lung lobes usually the result of bronchial dysplasia or agenesis in the neonate.
lobar pneumonia
pneumonia affecting one or more lobes of the lungs. See also lobar pneumonia.
References in periodicals archive ?
14 Congenital lobar emphysema almost always involve one lobe, with 47% rates of occurrence in the left upper lobe10, the case that we are presenting has involvement of the left upper lobe while in some cases bilateral involvement can occur with severe respiratory distress, which needs urgent surgical intervention.
Congenital lobar emphysema most often detected in the neonates or antenatally; however, less severely affected patients may present either in infancy or early childhood.
Congenital lobar emphysema can present at any age either in the early neonatal period or in infancy.
The clinical and imaging spectrum of findings in patients with congenital lobar emphysema.
Bronchogenic cyst: an uncommon cause of congenital lobar emphysema.
Anatomic and physiological parameters and their relationship to congenital lobar emphysema J Pediatric Surg 1980;15:931-7.

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